Hackers 'Phish' You a Merry Christmas

Phishing you a merry Christmas: The busiest online shopping season of the year is here, and as ever, fraudsters are waiting in the wings like evil little elves, ready to ship Christmas shoppers a big lump of coal in the form of fraud victimization.

According to Center for Retail Research, e-commerce sales are expected to grow by 18.4% in Europe and 13.8% in the US in 2015. Online sales in the world’s four biggest shopping markets (UK, US, Germany and China) will double in the next three years, reaching $975 billion by 2018, according to PayPal.

Moreover, online cross-border shopping is the fastest growing branch of e-commerce, bringing a large number of new international transactions to the marketplace.

Unfortunately, the growth in online shopping is proportionate to the rise of criminal credit card fraud—largely because many online shops and their clients are not aware of simple safety protocols. All too often, innocent users are tricked into believing that they were entering the credit card details on a secure online store while, in reality, the user was providing their details to a hacker who can then use them to empty someone’s entire life savings.

Or, a website found online may be a spoofed fraudulent website set up by hackers to steal the data. And even legitimate sites may not be using a secure encryption protocol to ensure that their customers’ details are safe during the payment process. Or a customer’s account on the shopping site may be compromised, giving the hacker access to the account.

In order to navigate the festive yet dangerous world of Christmas shopping on the net, NordVPN, a VPN service provider that helps secure online experiences, has offered a few tips.

1. https. The first thing you should always see while making an online payment is whether the payment gateway has an “https” URL. The ‘s’ in the URL means that it is a secure protocol and your data is encrypted properly.

2. Stay away from public terminals. “It cannot be stressed enough how dangerous it is to share your personal or financial information with any website or any person over the internet while using a public internet connection,” NordVPN noted. “Public Wi-Fi networks are common hunting grounds for attackers and data snoopers who try to access your personal information and use it for their benefit on your expense. Since public networks have negligible security, you should try and avoid using them while making online payments.”

3. Be wary. Whenever a website requests more information than is usually required, like your Social Security number or any other kind of personal information, it usually spells fraud. You should always be cautious before giving your personal or financial details anywhere on the internet.

4. Use a VPN. VPNs encrypt all the data you share across the internet on any website.

5. Stronger passwords. Perhaps the most basic requirement for any online account set up is using strong passwords. Weak passwords make it simple for hackers to break into your account and cause severe damage to you.

“The novelty of online shopping freedom should not make consumers less cautious,” the firm said. “Quite the contrary, online shopping can be dangerous if right precautions are not taken. The methods listed above can help anyone shop online securely. If something looks out of the ordinary and the deal looks too good to be true, it’s important to be very careful before clicking on suggested links. Every year, big online shopping periods, like Black Friday, Cyber Monday or Christmas shopping season, make online fraudsters more innovative, but education about fraud prevention and simple precaution can keep all shoppers safe.”

Photo © wk1003mike

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