Shopping tips for Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday sales have exploded these past few years. In fact, CNN’s Jackie Wattles stated that 2015 sales exceeded $3 billion. Clearly, Americans are seeing the benefit of grabbing great deals at home as opposed to fighting crowds on Black Friday.

That said, this increase in online shopping attracts many hackers who want nothing more than to victimize people who are just trying to buy gifts for themselves and their loved ones. While this is a very real threat, consumers can increase their online security by following these simple tips:

Look out for phishing

In the days before Cyber Monday, you may notice an influx of emails claiming to have the best deals on a certain product. While most of these are harmless – if not annoying – ads from real companies, some might be part of a phishing campaign. This is where a hacker will send out a multitude of emails claiming to be someone he’s not – in this case, a retailer with a deal that’s too good to pass up. The goal is to get you to either enter in personal information or simply click on a link that will download malware onto your device.

Outside of investing in cyber security software, which is very important, all you can really do is stay vigilant and look for the signs of a phishing campaign. We’ve even put together an entire article on the matter to help you out.

Ensure your vendor uses encryption

Another hacking technique that cyber criminals like to employ is what’s called a man-in-the-middle attack. This is basically where the hacker gains access to your network and is able to watch all of the data coming in and going out. Of course, this means that any shopping you do online will be compromised and the criminal will be able to identify your financial information.

To combat this, many e-commerce websites have begun to utilize HTTPS encryption. Without going into too much detail, this is basically where all of your internet traffic is jumbled in transit, where it is reassembled in a readable format once it reaches its destination. Therefore, a hacker that’s sitting in between your computer and the vendor’s servers can’t figure out what kind of information you’re sending.

Although this process is certainly complicated, there’s a really easy way for you to figure out if a site is using HTTPS encryption. All you have to do is look to the far left of the URL bar and check to see if there’s a little green lock. If there is, you can rest assured that your traffic will be encrypted and that you have an extra wall of security between you and any potential hackers.

Encryption is vitally important in online shopping. If you see the little green lock, the site uses HTTPS encryption.

Stay on top of your bank statements

While taking steps to avoid getting hacked is important, it’s impossible to predict every single outcome. The sad reality is that you may become compromised due to your shopping activities on Cyber Monday. However, a crucial aspect to realize here is that hackers are sneaky individuals. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure that you keep a firm grip on all of your bank statements.

While NerdWallet recommends that you do this at least once a month, checking on a more regular basis during the holidays is probably a good idea. Hackers often use this hectic time to hide charges that won’t be discovered for quite a while, giving them even more chances to separate themselves from the crime. If you can catch these charges quickly, you’ll have an easier time disputing them and getting your money back.