Be cautious when you click on deals this holiday season. We are all drawn to sales like "70% off!" or "save $200 on this new iPhone XS," but how do we know if it is real or a scam? You better stay alert this season to avoid online scammers taking advantage of your credulity.
Not everything you read online is true, and efforts to get your money will only continue to increase in the digital age. And these days, it's common for hackers to pose as popular retailers with amazing product deals, just so they can steal your email address or any other information that you provide them with.
Don't be fooled this way. Here are some tips to help you stay vigilant when shopping online this holiday season.
Learn to spot a fake
We are pretty savvy at calling out the "snake-oil" salesman when we see them on the streets or in a mall, but when it comes to online shopping we tend to be much more trusting. Don't be. What makes you think that a completely anonymous source has more credibility?
Before you click that ad for 70% off of a Pandora charm, take a look at its source. Often times it will be something that almost sounds credible, but is slightly off. That email from Amazonsecure-shop is not really from Amazon.com. Targethome.today is not Target. It can be tricky, but with a quick internet search, you will immediately discover known scams that are attempting to pose as a credible brand.
If you see something that looks too good to be true, it probably is. Do some research on the source of the deal; if you got it in an email, you're not specially chosen. Guaranteed that thousands of others have already seen the same thing, and probably fallen for it.
Keep track of what you buy
A very common phishing tactic that is used by online scammers involves posing as a shipping order confirmation. You may get an email from a source that appears to be Walmart claiming that you must log in before they ship your package ... well that's odd, you didn't order anything from Walmart. It is a scam designed to steal your information.
And if you haven't signed up for USPS informed delivery, it might be a good idea to do that, before crooks do it for you as a way to get your mail and private information.
There was another common scam during last year's holiday season that FedEx warned customers about. That is the failed delivery scam. If you receive an email claiming that your package failed to send, it is likely a scam that is trying to steal your information. If you are not completely sure, it is very easy to visit the website from the retailer or mail service to see if this is, indeed, the case.
Don't follow the link in an email. Instead, navigate to the webpage yourself, eliminating all possibility of being scammed by a spoof site.
Not everything is a great deal
Finally, be aware that not every alert you get is really the best deal for a product. This is not really a scam per se, but if you get a letter saying site XYZ is having a door-busting sale on select cameras, it may not really be a sale at all.
This is common year-round from all retailers, but especially during the shopping season. Always compare prices to other stores, maybe the same product is much cheaper somewhere else. This should be common knowledge, but in your headlong rush to buy everything on sale, you may tend to forget to compare pricing. Not every mattress store claiming "going-out-of-business, everything must go!" is being completely forthcoming, neither is every "Black Friday Door Buster Sale." Same goes for online deals, needless to say.
Watch out! Cybercriminals are now targeting your browser extensions
Unfortunately, cybercriminals are always finding new ways to infect your computer with malware - often by tricking you into installing software. Now they're using browser extensions as a way to steal your information.