The last quarter of the year means that the shopping season is underway around the world, and consumers are increasingly resorting to online shopping for its convenience. In 2017, online shopping sales in the United States alone reached $2.3 trillion, and the global growth of online retail sales is projected to hit US$4.48 trillion by 2021. November is expected to see the bulk of 2018 online traffic and spending at an estimated $9.15 billion, thanks to Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales around which online spending peaks. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are expected to take advantage of the shopping season as well.
[Related: 12 Threats of Christmas]
There are numerous ways cybercriminals can take advantage of this buying rush, from spam email to electronic devices gifted to loved ones, one wrong move may lead to your information falling into the wrong hands. Here are just some of the most common threats and the best practices for defending against them.
Connected devices as gifts
Smart devices as gift options are no longer limited to children and teenagers’ entertainment as internet of things (IoT) devices also serve as very useful gifts for adults. From mobile phones to smart appliances, some manufacturers have yet to prioritize security features, which can expose users to various online threats.
Before giving them as gifts, it may be best to ask questions and follow certain guidelines:
Consumers will likely receive purchase confirmation emails and cautionary alerts from companies this season. Cybercriminals can also craft legitimate-looking email messages that could redirect you to spoofed sites, or use bargains or urgent messages to phish for information.
A few reminders before opening those emails, clicking on those links, or sending any information:
Mobile devices for shopping online
Mobile and smart devices are becoming popular means for customers to get their shopping done this hectic season; from researching and looking at catalogs, to finding reviews and purchasing their goods online. Smartphones, tablets — and devices featuring voice-enabled assistants — prompted conversion and increased spending due to the automation conveniences it affords users. Over time, data collected, such as personally identifiable information (PII), are stored for faster transactions and easier advertising deployment. Meanwhile, cybercriminals are finding ways to exploit these new innovations to sift through information they can use.
While these mobile devices enable people to finish tasks faster than before, users should be aware of the increasingly complex ways cybercriminal attacks work:
[Related: Best Practices: Securing your mobile device]
Social media trends and scams
Businesses use social media marketing strategies to boost sales, and new entrepreneurs experiment and open mom-and-pop shops with social media as their starting point. Once found online, more customers are likely to search for these local businesses to try their products or services, especially when friends give good reviews or recommend them. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are also quick to recognize social media’s potential for malicious activities, from spoofing legitimate businesses to fake companies.
Here are a few ways you can protect yourself as you scroll through posts and timelines:
Online shopping safety
While stores are ultimately responsible for protecting their customers’ data, consumers should also protect themselves by taking some extra preventive measures this season. From your calls to your purchases, a few reminders and additional steps can ensure that you're making the most of your online shopping experience. Here are some general online shopping best practices:
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