by Max Nomad, author of “Surviving The Zombie Apocalypse: Safer Computing Tips for Small Business Managers and Everyday People”
Cybercriminals are coming up with more and more devious ways to steal every day. Some of the breaches are huge, like the recent Anthem security breach, allow hackers to get access to millions of people social security numbers, email address, credit card numbers and other personal information. All the above increases the risks for identify theft on a global scale.
But there are things that everyday shoppers experience on legitimate run of the mill online shopping sites that make one feel that they are being chased by zombies. There are tales of purchases being booby-trapped with bad virus-laden products, and complaints of horrible service and poor customer support after they’ve got your money.
If you shop online here are some helpful tips for you:
1. Don’t click on suspicious links in commercial emails.
Scammers send out booby-trapped phishing emails supposedly from popular shopping sites like Amazon all the time. Sometimes these fakes look better than the real emails. The safest way not get tricked by the forgeries is to not click on anything in the email. Open up a browser and type in the address of the website yourself.
2. It’s too good to be true.
Never forget these two shopping rules – Beware the unbelievable low price. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is and Caveat Emptor – Let the Buyer Beware.
3. Always use a secure connection.
Look for the secure site symbol. Before you type your credit card information make sure you see “https:” in front of the web address. If it has “http:” and or the https has a line through it, don’t put in your credit card.
4. Verify the web site.
Look at the web address closely to see if it is scam address and is not the company you really intend to do business with.
5. Validate the Vendor Performance & Reputation.
Fake customer reviews are a big problem online. Use search engines to find bona-fide objective reviews. Don’t rely totally on company or seller review information. Get a double confirmation of the things that matter to you including product purpose and suitability, quality, materials, and construction, and other things like speedy shipping, prompt refunds and returns, etc. If you see page after page of “glowing” reviews that cover the same compliments, search from the bottom up – look for and find the complaints and concerns.
6. Check out new vendors carefully.
If they lack experience, start with a small purchase and test them out. Search online for other people’s experience, and search the complaint websites like www.ripoffreport.com, www.sitejabber.com, and www.bbb.org. Specifically look for recent complaints about return policies, poor customer support, and all the tell-tale signs of a troubled customer experience. Look before you leap.
7. Don’t use your debit card for online purchases.
Debit card protections are not as good as credit card protections. Debit cards also give scammers access to your entire bank account. Try using a pre-paid credit card with a low maximum, and dedicate it for online purchases only.
8. Stop using the “Remember my password” option.
That info is commonly stored in clear text. Hackers know this as an easy way to steal usernames and passwords.
9. Install an effective personal firewall.
Do not operate your computer unless you have installed top notch computer security programs that can protect you against viruses, adware, malware, and other malicious codes.
10. Keep your Operating System (OS) current and your anti-virus software up to date.
The more current you keep your OS, the less likely many forms of malicious code will to be able to infect your computer. This is the computer’s equivalent of getting a yearly flu-shot and allergy shots every two weeks.
11. Check your bank statements regularly.
many banks now allow for setting up email notifications of any credit card usage. The instant you see any charges that look out of place, report them, and take the actions needed to get a prompt refund.
Max Nomad is an IT consultant, graphic designer, creative entrepreneur and computer security researcher with over 20 years of experience using Internet technology to assist (and protect) small businesses. He is the author of “Surviving The Zombie Apocalypse: Safer Computing Tips for Small Business Managers and Everyday People“.