How to shop safely during online sales, according to a cybersecurity firm

online buyer
An online shopper views products through a smartphone. (Pixabay/Hannes Edinger)

Have you received any messages from supposed retailers of this payday sale?

A cybersecurity firm said it detected more than 40 million phishing attacks targeting entities such as shopping platforms since last year.

Phishing is defined by Oxford as “the fraudulent practice of sending emails claiming to be from reputable companies in order to trick individuals into revealing personal information, such as passwords and card numbers credit”.

Kaspersky said phishing “remains an effective way to trick online shoppers into handing over their personal data and financial information to cybercriminals.”

“Well-known brands in the retail and banking sectors are most often used as bait,” he said in a statement.

Cybercriminals typically use a tactic of sending massive amounts of fake promotional materials disguised as legitimate messages from retailers via email or social networking sites.

Once an individual clicks on a link to the offer, they will be redirected to a malicious site instead of the retailer.

This makes their device and financial information vulnerable to the hacker while the malicious link will spread to their contacts to victimize them.

Kaspersky said that in Southeast Asia, the Philippines recorded the highest number of users exposed to phishing attempts in 2021.

Phishing attacks recorded by Kaspersky in 2020 and 2021. (Infographic from Kaspersky/Released)

“Since the pandemic, online shopping and electronic payments have been embraced by Filipinos. We therefore urge Filipinos to be on their guard, especially of sales announcements transmitted through emails, text messages, social media posts or even calls,” Yeo Siang Tiongthe company’s general manager for Southeast Asia, said.

“Threats can come from anywhere, but we can protect ourselves with vigilance and a robust security solution installed in our devices,” he added.

The firm said Filipinos could protect themselves in online shopping with these tips:

Type the received URL directly into the address bar

When receiving messages containing links, the individual is advised to type the supposed URL into an address bar to help them discern whether the site is legitimate or not.

Although website links are shortened to make them more phone-friendly, it may trick people into visiting risky sites.

Use a credit card

Purchases are insured and disputes are easier to resolve when a credit card is used instead of a debit card.

Dedicate a separate device and email address to purchases

This will limit the amount of spam an individual will receive and reduce their risk of opening potentially malicious emails disguised as sales promotions.

Beware of Coupon and Freebie Sites

Kaspersky said scammers use bargains to defraud bargain hunters. Buyers should beware of websites asking them to create lengthy profiles and provide extremely personal information.

Manage and protect online passwords

Users are also advised to use password managers to help them remember their credentials.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi

They are also advised against logging into personal accounts using Wi-Fi in cafes, hotels, restaurants and other public places.

This is because hackers could hijack the Wi-Fi signal or configure their own to trick people into using it, making the user vulnerable to device tracking and surveillance.

The company said that if using a public network is the only option, the individual must first set up a virtual private network (VPN) so that their data is encrypted.

Stick to familiar brands

Buyers are advised to stick to brands they know and have a good reputation.

In case they have to buy from a new seller, they are advised to check if they can contact the seller by email, phone number or address.

A seller’s feedback or online review history is another indicator of their reliability and integrity.

Always log out after your purchases

Users are especially advised to do this if they are sharing their devices with someone else.

Use reliable security

To familiarize themselves with the digital landscape, Filipinos can use services with anti-phishing technologies that will notify them if they visit a phishing site.

Read credit card statements

They are also advised to go through their statements to check if any unauthorized purchases are being made on their accounts.

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David A. Albanese