The festive season is already making storefronts twinkle and the biggest shopping weekend is just around the corner. Between Black Friday on November 27 and Cyber Monday on November 30, the UK is expected to spend more than ever, with finder.com projecting £6 billion to reach online retailers.
Unfortunately, it’s not only consumers and businesses who are busy during this period. The upcoming bargain weekend is a peak time for cybercriminals looking to take advantage of thousands of unprepared and unknowing shoppers.
According to Action Fraud, hackers and scammers stole £58 million over Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2019. Research by Barclays estimates that in the past five years, around 25% of Brits aged between 18 and 34 were victims of cybercrime during this weekend, with an average of £660 lost by each person.
WFH IT Support – which is part of Totality Services, an award-winning IT support firm in London – is gearing up to keep online customers safe as the UK moves into the festive season. Luis Navarro, who is co-founder at WFH IT Support, provides several tips on how you can shop securely this Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Use your own Wi-Fi
When it comes to searching for deals and making purchases, it’s best to use your home internet and mobile network connections. This is because Wi-Fi in restaurants and other public areas is vulnerable to numerous security risks.
Open networks don’t require any authentication to establish a connection, allowing cybercriminals to gain access to your device. In doing so, they can easily steal confidential information such as your passwords and credit card details. Public Wi-Fi can also be used to spread malware that may cause even more costly damage.
Research the website
There are countless online stores offering enticing discounts during the bargain weekend, along with many independent sellers. Most of them are trustworthy, but even those that appear familiar can be clones created by fraudsters. Look for the following signs to verify that a site is legitimate:
- A padlock symbol in the address bar
- Information on the site certificate when clicking the padlock
- The https:// at the start of the address should have the ‘s’
- The address should end in ‘.co.uk’ and not ‘.org’
- No poor quality content or bad grammar/spelling errors
If you’re not familiar with the seller, search for them online to see their reviews on websites such as TrustPilot. You can also use resources like Companies House to get information about the business.
Stay clear of phishing
Characterised by fraudulent attempts to gain access to sensitive information through messages disguising as reputable entities, phishing is one of the most widespread threats on the internet. They’re particularly common during Black Friday and Cyber Monday when cyber-criminals pose as recognised retailers offering attractive deals.
Keep an eye out for emails about prizes and discounts from any source that you didn’t request information from or is otherwise suspicious – even if they seem to be a major brand. Avoid clicking them and most importantly, don’t open any links or files that are attached. Trust your instincts here and delete anything concerning before going further.
Update your software
Make sure that you’re running the latest version of all the apps, browsers, operating systems, and security software on your devices. This ensures that they aren’t vulnerable to new kinds of threats. Installing programs that protect against malware is a good idea. WFH IT Support co-founder, Pedro Martins, suggests the following tools:
Secure anywhere internet security complete
Priced at £48.79 per year, this software delivers reliable protection against cyber-attacks on all systems. It’s efficient and responds in real-time by immediately identifying and preventing threats.
Available for £2.60 per month, the paid version of LastPass includes a generator that helps you easily create secure passwords before saving and synchronising them across every device.
WFH IT support
Geared towards businesses employing remote workers, WFH IT Support from Totality Services offers a complete support package for a monthly fee of £14.99 per device. Included services range from hardware management and DNS protection to email filtering and unlimited around-the-clock support, among many others.
This VPN (Virtual Private Network) costs £9.20 per month and provides a secure, encrypted route through which you safely connect to the internet – even when using public networks. ExpressVPN, Tunnelbear, and IPVanish are some alternatives that offer similar features.
Use strong passwords
If you prefer creating your own passwords, ensure that you follow the recommended practices. This includes making them at least 15 characters and using a mix of different letters, cases, numbers, and symbols that can’t be guessed.
With so many accounts to manage, it’s easy to make the mistake of using the same password for different websites. However, this makes it possible for cybercriminals to access all the accounts that share the password they’ve cracked. Therefore, it’s wise to vary your passwords between separate sites and to store them in a secure location.
More and more retailers are offering two-factor authentication (2FA) to add an additional layer of security. This typically comes in the form of a one-off code that’s sent to your email or phone number when attempting to log in or make a purchase. Try to utilise this feature wherever it’s available.
Protect your money
The Consumer Credit Act stipulates that banks and card providers have equal responsibility with retailers when it comes to broken, undelivered, and unsatisfactory products. This protects any purchase between £100 and £30,000. A voluntary charge-back scheme allows you to claim a refund for purchases under the minimum amount.
When something goes wrong, your first step should be to contact the seller. If they don’t respond or their solution is not to your liking, it’s best to take the issue to your bank or payment processor as soon as possible. The same applies to any fraudulent use of your card online.
In the event that you’ve been targeted by a cyber-criminal, be sure to report it to Action Fraud or the FCA Scam Smart website. But as long as you take the precautions mentioned above, you shouldn’t run into any issues when shopping for the latest deals.