Holiday shopping season is in full swing, and with it brings bargain-finders and hackers alike, looking to score a deal. Online scammers have a simple goal: to use your personal and financial information to insert malicious software, steal your identity and sensitive information, and take your money. There are several steps we should all take in order to avoid being taken advantage of through fake websites and charities, as well as links that will capture your sensitive data.

The convenience of shopping online, especially during the holidays, brings with it risks of being scammed — some easy to spot, and others more complicated. If a deal seems too good to be true, such as brand-name items at extremely low prices or vouchers and fake gift cards, it likely is.

Preparing yourself for safe and smart online holiday shopping is important, and not as difficult as you may imagine:

  • Start by keeping track of your bank account and credit card statements. Check your receipts against your statements and flag any suspicious transactions.
  • Next, know the general cost of the item you’re shopping for. Doing your research will help you not only shop smart and compare prices, but also recognize if a price seems way too low — which could result in a counterfeit item or the wrong item entirely.
  • Avoid shopping on a public wi-fi connection. These are not secure, so they open the door to hackers.
Outsmart hackers by taking CISA’s common sense steps to protect yourself and your data while holiday shopping online:
  1. First, taking the time to set up multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your accounts makes it much less likely you’ll get hacked. This is a quick way to make stealing your information harder for the average criminal. These criminals are looking for an easy target; this is one way to make yourself less enticing.
  2. Keep automatic software updates turned on. Running the latest version of software helps ensure the software is currently supported and tested for vulnerabilities.
  3. Think before you click. Only shop through trusted sources and vendors. Going straight to the website is best, since most successful cyber-attacks start with phishing emails that look like they came from the retailer.
  4. Use strong passwords. Check out these tips for creating a strong password, and consider using a password manager to generate and store unique passwords.
These tips will help you shop safely online, not only during the holiday season but throughout the year, too!

How to be safe while holiday shopping online