As Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all those great deals come barreling down upon us (or are already here in the case of some retailers), now is a prudent time to remember how to shop online safely. The holiday season is unfortunately a prime time for phishing emails, spoofed sites and other scams, so we thought we’d quickly review some tips to help you stay safe this holiday season.

This post is an excerpt from our post last year–6 Ways to Stay Safe While Shopping Online. To view the post in its entirety, click here.

  1. Check the URL of the site you’re visiting. Sophisticated phishing attacks can do a great job of making the site you’re visiting look just like the store you think you’re buying from, but the URL will be different. If the URL doesn’t match the site name (e.g., betsbuy.com vs bestbuy.com), don’t buy anything and get out of there.
  2. Make sure your site is secure before typing in any personal information. There should be a handy lock icon next to the beginning of your URL to indicate any data you input will be encrypted. If you don’t see one, or if the beginning of your URL only reads http:// instead of https:// (s for Secure), leave immediately and try your search again. If you suspect that the site you’re visiting should be secure but isn’t, you can check it here.
  3. Similar to the URL, be sure to check the domain name of the site you’re visiting. Is it on the vendor’s list of authorized dealers? If not, beware. A simple Whois Lookup can help you determine who owns the particular site you’re visiting.
  4. Visit the official retail site of a store before using a third-party site to score deals. This will help you spot fake sites that are trying to spoof the real one. Some sites can be hard to spot, but others are more obvious. The best way to compare is to go to the official brand’s site to look at their web design and logo before going to any vendor’s site. This includes retailers like Amazon and Target, which are some of the most popularly spoofed websites, according to the Global Cyber Alliance.
  5. Be careful when you’re typing in your shopping sites! A recent survey found that 77 percent of consumers have mistyped a web address in their browser or clicked a suspicious link, both of which can lead would-be buyers to dangerous sites. Scammers often register domains like wallmart.com or appple.com, preying on the simple mistake of typing too fast.
  6. Treat all Black Friday-related emails with caution and suspicion. If a deal sounds too good to be true, even for Black Friday, it probably is. Phishing emails with malicious links make a great gateway for bad actors to gain access to your systems, so if you’re opening emails at work, you’ll want to be extra careful. And If you have to enter a lot of personal information just to get a free gift card (a past phishing scam), you may only be duping yourself into giving away your personal information in return for nothing.

Remember, stay safe out there, and happy shopping!