As the holiday season approaches, one shopping day sticks out in everyone’s mind: Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when stores offer amazing deals and shoppers come out in droves to find the perfect items for their holiday shopping.
Among all of the frenzy and excitement over discounts and deals, it’s easy to forget that hackers, scammers, and thieves often take advantage of the holiday to uncover credit card information, deceive shoppers, and steal information both physically and digitally.
Read on to learn how to protect yourself and your personal information this Black Friday, so that you can shop knowing that your information is secure.
1. Educate yourself.
The first step in knowing how to protect yourself from identity theft, credit card hacking, scams, or other crimes, especially on a busy holiday such as Black Friday, is to understand what to look for and what measures to take. Here are some terms to understand:
- According to the FTC, identity theft “happens when someone steals your personal information and uses it without your permission.” This possibility can play out in various ways on Black Friday; you may be hacked and your credit card information, social security number, or other personal information may be stolen. You can also be a victim of identity theft if you voluntarily give this information to an untrustworthy website or if your credit card is physically stolen.
- A firewall is security software that monitors information that travels over a network connection; along with anti-virus, anti-spam, and anti-spyware software, it protects your computer from hacking.
- Phishing is a type of scam that occurs when you are prompted to respond to an email or other message by sending money or other personal information. For example, you may receive an email that you believe is from your bank, and then proceed to click the link and log in to an account that you think is yours – however, you are really logging in to a website controlled by a cyber attacker.
You can learn more about cyber security, including what to look for as well as how to protect yourself, by conducting research or enrolling in a course that offers a detailed look at the issue. Global Learning Systems offers a great option to do this through our online courses, which can be expanded to train employees of both small businesses and large corporations.
2. Avoid scams by recognizing the signs.
When shopping online, remain aware of several basic precautions:
- Only shop on websites that you trust. To avoid falling prey to a phishing scam, do not click on links that are sent to you in emails; instead, navigate directly to the website by typing the URL into your address bar.
- Use a secure connection. This means that when you are entering personal information such as a credit card number or PIN, only you and the website you are entering it into will be able to access that information. This will be indicated by a locked padlock in the address bar, or by the “https” that precedes the URL.
- Be suspicious of deals that seem too good to be true, or those from companies or websites that you have not heard from before. If you feel that something is off, do some research on the company to determine its authenticity.
- Make sure to keep your passwords and identification information secure; do not respond to emails or messages prompting you to enter or “verify” your information; you should always contact the company directly.
- Check that your personal computer is updated with anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam software, as well as a working firewall.
3. Use credit cards.
According to The Huffington Post, in case a security breach does happen, you would rather be holding a credit card than a debit card in your hand once it comes to taking care of the issue.
If you shop using a debit card – which many shoppers do during Black Friday because of a desire to avoid overspending – and become a victim of identity theft, recovering the money that is stolen from your account is a difficult and time-consuming process, and most companies require you to report the theft within 60 days. This can be an inconvenience if you wish to purchase items or pay the rent immediately after finding out about the crime.
However, many credit card companies have policies that replace your credit immediately, such as a “zero-liability” policy.
4. Know how to protect yourself when shopping in-store.
If you do decide to venture out of your home on Black Friday to join the throngs of shoppers waiting to take advantage of the numerous in-store deals, make sure to stay aware at all times, as physical theft is just as prevalent as cyber crime.
- Keep your credit cards and other information secure and on your person at all times.
- Save all of your receipts in case you need to verify a purchase later.
- Keep cash and credit cards put away unless you are paying for your items; pickpockets and thieves will take advantage of any opportunity to snatch a card while you are not looking.
- Keep all personal electronic devices (mobile phones, tablets, etc) that you carry with you, locked and on you at all times.