Walking in a Dark Web Wonderland Part II

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Walking in a Dark Web Wonderland Part II

Blue Christmas, White Christmas, Black Friday, Cyber Monday. We did it. We all survived Thanksgiving, ate too much stuffing, and survived the shopping frenzy that comes with the kick-off to the holiday season. If you are like the majority of folks, you took advantage of some great deals online and have started to stockpile your gifts for family and friends. This is when cybercriminals will be starting to unravel their plans for their next big payday. While we wait for our first wave of packages to arrive, they will start sending out their first wave of phishing emails. It’s that time of the year where we have an abundance of retail emails. 

So how can you be sure it’s real, or a hoax?

The first step is already done. You are aware that this could happen to you. You have an advantage over most people, considering you’re educating yourself by reading this right now. You must also be sure to read your emails carefully and look at where the email is coming from. Like I said in Part I, the emails will tell you either, “Your Item is Out of Stock,” or “Your Package has Been Delayed in Shipping,” or “There’s Been a Problem With Your Credit Card.” I’ve even recently seen the good ol’ Apple ID scam; in which an email states you must sign back in with your Apple ID because of an update, or someone else was trying to access it. All of these emails will direct you to click on a link to resolve the problem. When in reality, you will be taken to phishing website (that looks incredibly real so you wouldn’t even know it) where it asks you to input your credit card number, account number, or log in information. That’s when the con artists win. 

Cybercriminals-1, You-0. 

However, you have nothing to fear. Since you read “Walking in a Dark Web Wonderland” (and still have that tune stuck in your head), you are on guard and will not fall victim to this sort of scam. So when that email comes in, you will NOT click on the link. Instead, you are going to go to the website and log into your account. Nine times out of ten there will not be a problem at all.   

After Part I I received a lot of feedback. Aside from me stunting everyone’s holiday spirit; a lot of people assumed that I never buy anything online. This isn’t true; I do most of my shopping via the touch of my screen or mouse click. So let’s talk about how to purchase things safely.

First things first— if it looks to good to be true, it probably is.

While some deals are incredible, but be weary of amazing price drops. Only shop at reputable retailers, directly from their website. Not from your email.

I know it’s a daunting task to actually type in a URL address, but it could be the difference between having your money stolen, and having a happy holiday.

For example, if you search for ‘60 inch TV sales’ you are going to find number of amazing deals from companies you likely never heard of with prices that are much cheaper than the big brand stores. They will tell you they can afford such large discounts because they are an online retailer and do not have the over head. 

BEWARE: Anyone (including a cybercriminal) can create a website that appears to sell legitimate goods and services.

So take your time online. Ensure that you do your research, but realize that this is a cybercriminals job. They have all the time in the world to make these websites look real. They even write fake reviews; trying to get you to believe you are getting the deal of a lifetime. It’s pretty easy to get duped. It happens daily.

The most important piece to any real or fake transaction is the money component.

If you’ve come to the conclusion that the site you are on is real, how do you pay for it? Would you use your debit card, or your credit card? Does it even matter? Yes, it does.

You should only use your credit card for online transactions; not your debit card. What’s the difference? A credit card is not attached to your bank account. This is contradictory statement compared to a lot of financial gurus out there, who are always advocating the use of debit cards over credit cards to avoid getting into debt. 

There is a lot more risk involved in using debit cards online. 

Let’s compare the two. When your credit card has fraudulent charges, there are  numerous protections offered by the credit card companies that help consumers dispute the charges. When fraudulent charges are on your debit card, the money is removed from your checking account and now you have to work with the bank in order to have the funds redeposited in your account. You will need to file affidavits stating the charges are not yours and in many cases the banks require a police report.  In some cases it may take a couple of weeks to fix the problem, if it can even be resolved. Sounds like a headache to me.

The last time I had a fraudulent charge on my credit card it was easy to fix. I called customer service and explained the charges were not mine. They took a little information, and in a matter of minutes they told me I had nothing to worry about. It wouldn’t be that easy if I had used my debit card.

The holiday season is the time to be with family; to give thanks and gifts to those we love most. Don’t have that ruined by becoming a cybercrime victim. To avoid this from happening, just remember these three steps:

  1. Think before you click. Know that criminals and con artists will be sending phishing emails representing major retailers and postal carriers prompting you to click on a link.
  2. Only shop at reputable retailers. If a deal looks to good to be true, it most likely is.
  3. Use your credit card instead of debit card to shop online.

Your cybersecurity is in your hands. Don’t let it get into the wrong ones! Happy shopping and happy holidays!

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