White iPhone with wifi and online shopping symbols on screen, with Christmas packages in the background.

Avoid scams during this holiday season

Staying up to date keeps you safe

It never fails, software updates seem to be released at the most inconvenient time. You know what I’m talking about. You’re right in the middle of doing something and that message pops up on your computer or phone screen that reads “update available.” You know you should probably install the update, but you tell yourself it can wait until a more convenient time, and then it never gets installed. Updates contain important security and bug fixes that help protect you. Make sure to keep your devices current by installing updates as soon as possible.

Free Wi-Fi isn’t always free

Meeting up at the local coffee shop with your friends seems like a great opportunity to socialize and get some online shopping done at the same time. After all, they have free Wi-Fi, right? Wrong! Businesses that offer public Wi-Fi are targets for hackers looking to hijack your information. These scams work by impersonating the public Wi-Fi network. When you connect, you are actually connecting to the hacker’s network who is capturing all your information to and from the internet, including personal information and credit card numbers.

Only shop on trustworthy websites

The internet is infinitely wide and the number of companies that you can do business with is endless. Use caution when doing business with a new or unrecognizable online company. Beware of pop-up deals from unknown companies. Unless you have time to research and verify the company, look for deals elsewhere.

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is

Deals too good to be true should raise a red flag. Make sure you read the fine print and understand the conditions. Does it include the cost of delivery? What about the return policy; are you stuck with it if you don’t like it? Companies that are going out of business may not care about paying the advertised rebate or even filling your order.

Make sure the checkout site is secure

Your personal information is valuable and is required to make payment online. Before entering information like your name, address and credit card number, make sure the payment site is encrypted. Check the website address and be sure it starts with https:// and not just http://. You can also look for the padlock icon near the address which indicates
it’s encrypted.

Don’t shop from links sent to your email

You are likely to notice an increase in the number of unsolicited emails that hit your inbox as we approach the holiday season. Some of these are welcome, some not. If you happen to see a good deal from an unsolicited email, don’t be tempted to click the link to the product from the email. Instead, visit the website using your internet browser of choice and search for the product directly. If you can’t find the advertised offer, this may be a good indication it is a scam.

As online shopping continues to gain popularity, make sure you are practicing safe online shopping techniques. Look for positive reviews and beware of products with poor or no reviews. If in doubt, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and verify with the seller. No deal is worth risking your hard-earned money or private information.

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