The shopping frenzy shows no signs of slowing down and bargains are still being snapped up left, right and centre! Many of us can't face battling the High Street and a quarter of purchases are expected to be made online with the festive frenzy generating £1.7 billion a day in sales during the next few weeks. Many online retailers are continuing to slash prices and it is likely to continue right into January.
Whilst it's a perfect time to find Christmas presents at dream prices, if you aren't careful you could walk into a Christmas nightmare and become the victim of an online scams! With so many people online, it is a scammers paradise!
The big online scam is ID theft where personal details are taken and used to open accounts, borrow money, order products or get information in your name. Not only can it leave you out of pocket in the short term, it can also affect your credit rating right up until the scam is revealed, which is really bad news.
Another common one is phishing when you get an innocent looking email which directs you to what looks like a familiar website like your bank, Paypal or even HMRC. You are asked to input your details into an online form but you are really handing over personal details to a fraudster.
How can you protect yourself?
It's best to keep an eye on your accounts for anything suspicious and be careful with all of your personal information to make sure that nobody else can easily get it. There are many ways your ID can be stolen but the good news is that you CAN protect yourself.
Passwords can be a hassle. Most people have dozens of online accounts and remembering them all can be a headache but it's SO important that you use different passwords and secure ones. Use characters, symbols, capitals and numbers for an ultra-secure password and you're accounts will be safer for it.
Make sure that any site you visit is legitimate. Check the URL of the site you are visiting to make sure that it's genuine and that you haven't been redirected to somewhere dodgy. As with knock off products, knock off websites will use similar but fake names and can be easily spotted - anything with https:// is secure.
A bit of research goes a long way. Get into the habit of checking Google, social media and internet forums to verify the integrity of any discounts, offers or freebies you might come across online. If it's too good to be true, sadly it usually is!
Many phishing emails use general greetings rather than your name. If it says Dear PayPal member or Dear Customer, do not click on any of the links as most companies would personalise the email with your name. Watch out for emails that are trying to get you to ACT NOW! Luckily, most phishing emails usually end up in your Spam or Junk folder. If you have a firewall installed on your computer or anti-virus software, you should receive some level of protection.
For more detailed information on these and other scams, you can read my article here
However, if you need a little more help with online security then take a look at Cyber Streetwise. This great new site has been set up by the government to help individuals and businesses avoid online tricksters by providing simple and effective advice. They estimate that as many as one in ten shoppers have had been victims of some form of online crime - don't let yourself be next!