How to Avoid Identity Theft and Fraud during Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Masked Man with laptop.

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

With the National Retail Federation (NRF) estimating that 164 million people will plan to shop from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, the start of the holiday season can be “a bonanza for cyber criminals,” according to a report from CNBC Make It that offers the following tips to avoid identity theft and fraud on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

  1. Do not click on links in emails since they are a common way for cyber criminals to gain access to credit card information or identity through phishing emails that copy a sale or discount email from reputable stores and include links to false portals asking for sensitive information.
  2. Do not open email attachments from retailers since they will not hide deals in attachments but cyber criminals will hide malware impersonating retailers there so go directly their websites to check tracking numbers instead of clicking on tracking numbers in emails or opening up attachments.
  3. Avoid pop-ups and ads since malware and viruses are not spread only through email but can follow shoppers around the Internet in the form of malicious advertising called “malvertising” that can also infect devices with a wide variety of harmful programming.
  4. Beware of e-skimmers where cyber criminals install malicious codes on retailer websites to get credit card data during check out which is a digital version of card skimming that happens at gas stations and ATMs where cyber criminals install a device that gathers credit card numbers.
  5. Use credit cards instead of debit cards because the Fair Credit Billing Act makes consumers only liable for up to $50 in fraudulent charges on credit cards and major credit card companies offer “zero liability” policies so consumers do not have to pay for any fraud.
  6. Use a secure and private Wi-Fi connection to shop since using notoriously insecure public Wi-Fi to access sensitive information can be particularly dangerous during the holiday season with all the bad bots and cyber criminals lurking around waiting to create havoc.
  7. Be suspicious of free offers since there is an “explosion” of survey and gift card scams during the holidays that supposedly offer payments or gift cards in exchange for taking surveys but instead ask for your credit card information or account credentials that go to cyber criminals.
  8. Diversify passwords since using the same passwords over and over again can allow cyber criminals to break into other accounts and websites that may expose personal data which is especially common during the holiday shopping season.
  9. Monitor accounts to keep a close eye on bank and credit card accounts throughout the holiday season since cyber criminals can make small charges using bot technology to see if the charge will go through before making larger purchases.
  10. Beware of gift card scams since they are becoming increasingly popular because gift cards can be a perfect holiday gift for the hard-to-please people on holiday shopping lists so carefully inspect physical gift cards off the shelf to make sure there has been no tampering.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the Friday following Thanksgiving Day that is regarded as the beginning of the holiday shopping season and the Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday. The CNBC Make It article is at www.cnbc.com/2019/11/24/ways-to-protect-against-black-friday-and-cyber-monday-scams.html.

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