Holiday Rush: How to Check Yourself Before Your Wreck Yourself When Shopping Online

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It was the last item on my list and Christmas was less than a week away. I was on the hunt for a white Northface winter coat my teenage daughter that she had duly ranked as the most-important-die-if-I-don’t-get-it item on her wishlist that year.

After fighting the crowds and scouring the stores to no avail, I went online, stressed and exhausted with my credit card in hand looking for a deal and a Christmas delivery guarantee.

Mistake #1: I was under pressure and cutting it way too close to Christmas.
Mistake #2: I was stressed and exhausted.
Mistake #3: I was adamant about getting the best deal.

Gimme a deal!

It turns out these mistakes created the perfect storm for a scam. I found a site with several name brand named coats available lower prices. I was thrilled to find the exact white coat and guaranteed delivery by Christmas. The cyber elves were working on my behalf for sure!

Only the coat never came and I was out $150.

In my haste and exhaustion, I overlooked a few key things about this “amazing” site that played into the scam. (I’ll won’t harp on the part about me calling customer service a dozen times, writing as many emails, and feeling incredible stupidity over my careless clicking)!

Stress = Digital Risk

I’m not alone in my holiday behaviors it seems. A recent McAfee survey, Stressed Holiday Online Shopping, reveals, unfortunately, that when it comes to online shopping, consumers are often more concerned about finding a deal online than they are with protecting their cybersecurity in the process. 

Here are the kinds of risks stressed consumers are willing to take to get a holiday deal online:

  • 53% think the financial stress of the holidays can lead to careless shopping online.
  • 56% said that they would use a website they were unfamiliar with if it meant they would save money.
  • 51% said they would purchase an item from an untrusted online retailer to get a good deal.
  • 31% would click on a link in an email to get a bargain, regardless of whether they were familiar with the sender.
  • When it comes to sharing personal information to get a good deal: 39% said they would risk sharing their email address, 25% would wager their phone number, and 16% percent would provide their home address.

3 Tips to Safer Online Shopping:

  • Connect with caution. Using public Wi-Fi might seem like a good idea at the moment, but you could be exposing your personal information or credit card details to cybercriminals eavesdropping on the unsecured network. If public Wi-Fi must be used to conduct transactions, use a virtual private network (VPN) to help ensure a secure connection.
  • Slow down and think before you click. Don’t be like me exhausted and desperate while shopping online — think before you click! Cybercriminal love to target victims by using phishing emails disguised as holiday savings or shipping notification, to lure consumers into clicking links that could lead to malware, or a phony website designed to steal personal information. Check directly with the source to verify an offer or shipment.
  • Browse with security protection. Use comprehensive security protection that can help protect devices against malware, phishing attacks, and other threats. Protect your personal information by using a home solution that keeps your identity and financial information secure.
  • Take a nap, stay aware. This may not seem like an important cybersecurity move, but during the holiday rush, stress and exhaustion can wear you down and contribute to poor decision-making online. Outsmarting the cybercrooks means awareness and staying ahead of the threats.

I learned the hard way that holiday stress and shopping do not mix and can easily compromise my online security. I lost $150 that day and I put my credit card information (promptly changed) firmly into a crook’s hands. I hope by reading this, I can help you save far more than that.

Here’s wishing you and your family the Happiest of Holidays! May all your online shopping be merry, bright, and secure from all those pesky digital Grinches!

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