Hectic Holidays Heavenly for Hackers

Ahhh, it’s that time of the year again: the hustle and bustle of the holiday season—parties, gift giving, travels and get togethers with friends and family. But it also brings up the question of how and when are you going to have time to shop and get everything done in time?—let alone fight those crowds at the mall for that elusive parking space.

With online shopping, not only can you shop any time of day (or night if you’re like me and a night owl), from the comfort of your couch or recliner and can easily compare prices without walking up and down the mall or driving all over town. You can even get things online that you simply just can’t buy locally. But while online shopping provides you with a high level of convenience, it also provides cybercriminals with opportunities to steal your money and information through various online scams.

That’s why as Black Friday and Cyber Monday (which has become one of the biggest online shopping days of the year) approaches, you need to make sure you’re being smart when shopping online. Besides making yourself familiar with the 12 Scams of the Holidays, here’s some tips to stay safe online:

  • Be wary of deals. Like Mom said, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is”. Any offer you see online that has an unbelievable price shouldn’t be believable. I saw a 25-foot camper on Craigslist for 10% of the list price, and it was within 10 miles of me. My endorphins rushed and I was filled with excitement—I wanted it! Then I found out it needed to be shipped from Chicago (I live in Boston) and I calmed down. But I can see how when a person’s endorphins peak, hasty decisions can ensue.



  • Use credit cards and not debit cards. If the site turns out to be fraudulent, your credit card company will usually reimburse you for the purchase; and in the case of credit card fraud, the law should protect you. Some credit card companies even offer extended warranties on purchases. With debit cards, it can be more difficult to get your money back and you don’t want your account to be drained while you’re sorting things out with your bank.Even better is a one-time-use credit card, which includes a randomly generated number that can only be used for a single transaction. While this may be an extra step in your shopping process, it can go a long way to protecting yourself online and it’s a good way to #HackYourLife.



  • Beware of fake websites. When searching for a product online, you are likely to end up clicking on something within the first few pages of your search results. Cybercriminals often setup up fakes sites that look real at URLs that are common misspellings or typos of well-known shopping sites (also known as typosquatting).Instead of typing in the URL of your favorite site, make sure you have a safe search plug-in installed on your browser, like McAfee® SiteAdvisor®, and search for that site. SiteAdvisor will then give you color-coded safety ratings in your browser search results and give you a warning before going to sites that are known to be malicious.




  • Review the company’s privacy policy. Look to see how the merchant uses your personal information and check to make sure that it will not be shared with third parties. You should only disclose facts necessary to complete your purchase and not any additional information about yourself.
  • Never click on spam links to make purchases. Your email inbox and now text messages are full of scammy messages from hackers designed to lure you into clicking links and parting with your credit card information.
  • Know the shipping policies. Look into shipping and handling fees and make sure they seem reasonable to you. You want to make sure that you understand all your shipping options and how they will affect your total cost.
  • Look for HTTPS: Check to see if the site uses encryption—or scrambling—when transmitting information over the Internet by looking for a lock symbol on the page and checking to make sure that the web address starts with https:// instead of http://.
  • Only use secure devices and connections: Public computers at an Internet cafe or library are risky because you don’t have control over who used the device before you and you don’t know if there is malicious software on them that can steal your information. Also make sure that you don’t shop online if you’re using an unsecured wireless connection like those in a coffee shop or airport. A hacker could intercept data you are sending over that connection whether you’re on your computer or mobile.
  • Protect all your devices. When shopping online, make sure you have up-to-date security software on all your devices, like McAfee LiveSafe™ service, that can safeguard your privacy and data, protect against identity theft, and defend against viruses and online threats.


Make sure to keep the cheer in your holidays and practice safe online shopping all year round.

And don’t forget to share these tips and McAfee’s 12 scams of the holidays. McAfee is having a Season of Sharing sweepstakes.* To enter, go to 12scams.com and share the #12scams of the holidays content to help protect your friends and family. The more you share the more chances you have to win a Dell™ XPS™ 12 convertible Ultrabook™ or a Dell Venue™ 8 Pro Tablet with McAfee LiveSafe™.


*No purchase necessary. Valid only in the US from Nov 18 – Dec 13.



Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked!  Disclosures.

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