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Protect yourself against the dark side of Cyber Monday

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Ahead of the frantic race to pick up a bargain this Friday use our guidelines to ensure as a consumer you are protected when shopping online this Christmas.  

In recent years, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become prime targets for cyber criminals to create scams that lure unsuspecting victims. Cyber Security author and IT Director at FDR Law in Warrington, David Wood’s advises shoppers to be aware of some of the common pitfalls to avoid becoming a victim of cyber crime

“Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now a hugely popular part of the seasonal shopping calendar with British shoppers spent £3.3bn over the weekend last year.  However, this year, a total of 6.5 million cyber-attacks are predicted on UK retailers alone. With the prospect of thousands of amazing deals, shoppers may not be as careful as they normally would, it’s vital shoppers remain vigilant when looking to secure a bargain online,” commented David Wood, IT Director, FDR Law.

To ensure consumers avoid cyber criminals whilst shopping online this Christmas, here are a list of guidelines to follow:

  1. If you interact with brands on social media, check they are “verified”- on Facebook and Twitter pages, this means the company will have a blue tick on their profile.
  2. Watch out for fake websites -  Fraudsters can easily create websites that look just like official retailers boasting incredible deals. However, once a payment is made, shoppers may find they receive inferior products or those that do not match the description. And that’s if they arrive at all. The quality of fake sites vary - from the very accurate to those littered with grammatical errors. Never buy anything from a site that does not have ‘https’ at the start of the URL. The ‘s’ stands for secure. There should also be a green padlock to the left of the browser. Look out for domain names that end in .net or .org.  According to consumer rights group, Which? online shopping is rarely offered by these types of sites.
  3. If you receive a message from a “friend” informing you of a freebie, consider whether it’s written in their normal style, and something they would usually do. If in doubt, delete.
  4. If you’re invited to click on an URL, check the link – does it look genuine for the site you want to go to? To be on the safe side, don’t click on links in messages, even if they appear to come from a trusted contact, instead go to the website yourself and search for that offer. According to Action Fraud, the cybercrime reporting service, even an “unsubscribe” link could be malicious.
  5. Be careful when opening email attachments too. Fraudsters are increasingly attaching files, usually PDFs or spreadsheets, which contain dangerous malware
  6. Pay by credit card as these offer protection if things go wrong with a purchase. When buying on eBay stick to Paypal as bank transfers are unlikely to be refunded, and be suspicious if a website asks you to make a bank transfer instead of paying by card.
  7. Phishing messages are extremely common. They are designed to appear from trusted organisation such as your bank or HMRC or familiar retailers, with the aim to dupe consumers into revealing personal details. These emails may contain links which when clicked download malicious software or take users through to a fake website where details are requested.
  8. Lastly, remember that if something seems too good to be true, it normally is.