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Shopping online safely over the holidays!

December 20, 2023

Advice from Scott Thomson Director Cyber & IM at Centium.

Many of us are careful in all our online activities, including finding a bargain when shopping online, but many of our family and friends may not be as informed or careful when undertaking these activities. This risk increases when they are motivated to find the ‘best deal’ or get the ‘best present’ for the holiday season.

Unfortunately, many of our family and friends are the perfect target for cyber criminals who use the urgency of the ‘sales’ season to get access to bank accounts, credit card details and commit other online crimes.

As we gather together over the upcoming holiday season, it is a good time to help our families and friends understand the threats that are out there, how easy it is to be a victim and provide some steps that they can take to decrease the risk of them becoming the next victim of these criminals.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre has provided the following great advice that we can use to check our own habits against and also share these tips with others to help them be more resilient to cybercrimes through the 2-minute quiz that is available on the ACSC page linked below.


Shop using secure devices

Make sure the devices you use for online shopping have the latest updates installed and are connected to a trusted network. For example, use your home Wi-Fi or (4G/5G) cellular rather than public Wi-Fi.

Protect your payment information and accounts

Be careful saving payment information on an online shopping account. If you do save payment information to an account, you should turn on multi-factor authentication (MFA) to protect it. Where this is not possible, set a long, complex and unique passphrase as the account’s password to help keep cyber criminals out. You could also use a password manager to generate and store passwords for you.

Use trusted sellers

Research online shopping websites before you buy and stick to well-known, trusted businesses.

Know the warning signs

Extremely low prices, payments through direct bank deposits, and online stores that are very new or have limited information about delivery, return and privacy policies can all be signs of a scam.

Use secure payment methods

Never pay by direct bank deposits, money transfers or digital currencies such as Bitcoin, because it is rare to recover money sent this way. You should pay by PayPal or with your credit card. You may want to set up a second card with a low credit limit and keep it specifically for online shopping. This will help minimise financial losses if your card details are compromised after shopping online.

Don’t engage, and report suspicious contact

Be aware of any strange phone calls, messages or emails you get about online orders. It could be someone trying to get you to share your personal or financial details. If someone contacts you about an order you don’t remember placing, it could be a scam. Stop contact and reach out to the store using the details on their official website to check.

Watch out for fake delivery scams

Don’t let your guard down while you’re waiting for your goods to arrive. Cybercriminals can send fake parcel delivery notifications with links that could trick you into downloading malware or giving away your personal details. If you receive such a message, do not click on the link. Delete the message immediately. You can contact the seller or the courier company using the details on their official website. Scamwatch has examples of what these fraudulent text messages may look like.

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