Nineways to shop safely on Cyber Monday

With Cyber Monday, you don’t have to camp outside in the cold overnight so you can be the first person busting through the doors like on Black Friday. But you still may get trampled to a pulpby cyber scammers waiting for their prey.

2DHow can you avoid these predators?

  • You know that old mantra: If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Be highly suspicious of outrageously great deals, and also assume that e-mails that link to unbelievable savings are scams. You may think it won’t hurt to just “check it out,” but consider the possibility that simply clicking on the link will download a virus to your computer.
  • Back up your data. Shopping online means it’s inevitable that you’ll stumble upon an infected website designed to inject malicious code into your computer or phone. “Ransomware” will hold your data hostage. Backing up your data in the cloud to Carbonite protects you from having to pay the “ransom.”
  • Say “No” to debit cards. At least if you purchase with a credit card, and the sale turns out to be fraudulent, the credit card company will likely reimburse you. Try getting your money back from a scam with a debit card purchase. Good luck.
  • If you’re leery about using a credit card online, see if the issuer offers a one-time use credit card. If someone steals this one-time number, it’s worthless for a second purchase.
  • Make sure you understand the online merchant’s shipping options.
  • When buying online, read up on the retailer’s privacy policy.
  • When completing the purchase, if the merchant wants you to fill in information that makes you think, “Now why do they need to know that?” this is a red flag. See if you can purchase the item from a reputable merchant.
  • Never shop online using public Wi-Fi such as at a hotel, coffee house or airport.

If the retailer’s URL begins with “https” and has a padlock symbol before that, this means the site uses encryption (it’s secure). If it doesn’t, don’t buy from that merchant if the product is something you can buy from a secure site. Of course, I don’t expect, for instance, Veronikka’s Death by Chocolate Homemade Cookies to have an encrypted site, but if you’re looking for more common merchandise, go with the big-name retailers.

Robert Siciliano is an expert in personal privacy, security and identity theft. Learn more about Carbonite Personal plans. See him discussing identity theft prevention. Disclosures.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like the Holiday Shopping Season

The holiday season is in full force. Not only is it time to bring out the tinsel while jamming out to holiday music, it’s also time to buckle down on your holiday shopping. Have you made your holiday shopping list yet? Luckily, in the U.S., the biggest shopping days of the year are coming up meaning lots of shopping deals at stores on and offline to help you complete your holiday shopping list. are people out there who are really gung-ho about Black Friday—camping outside a department store the night before and fighting the masses for the half-price widescreen tv. That’s not really my style; I’m more of a Cyber Monday kind of guy. I just fire up my computer or tablet and start clicking and then boxes magically arrive at my house…well maybe not magically.

Online shopping is convenient for the holiday shopper. No lines, no braving the sometimes nasty winter weather, no crowds—you can buy almost anything and never leave your couch. Although online shopping is a great way to complete your holiday shopping list, you should take a couple precautions while online to keep your personal and financial information safe from hackers.  Along with avoiding the 12 Scams of the Holidays, here are the top 5 tips to help you stay safe while shopping online this holiday season.

  • Be wary of deals. Does that 90% off blowout sale of iPhones sounds too good to be true? It probably is. Any offer you see online that has an unbelievable price shouldn’t be believable. Beware of spam emails with links to awesome deals, as it’s particularly dangerous to buy on a site advertised in a spam email. I recommend using web protection, like McAfee® SiteAdvisor® provides easy to results to protect you from going to a malicious website.
  • Use credit cards rather than 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. 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. Another option savvy shoppers sometimes use is a one-time use credit card, which includes a randomly generated number that can be used for one transaction only. If the number is stolen it cannot be used again. Using this type of credit card also ensures that a thief does not have access to your real credit card number.
  • Review the company’s policies. 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. Also, check the website’s shipping policy and make sure it seems reasonable to you. You want to make sure that you understand all your shipping options and how they will affect your total cost of your online purchase.
  • Check that the site is secure. Find out if a company’s website is secure by looking for a security seal, like the McAfee SECURE™ trustmark, which indicates that the site will protect you from identity theft, credit card fraud, spam and other malicious threats. Make sure 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://.
  • Only use secure devices and connections.  If you are using a public computer, information such as your browsing history and even your login information may be accessible to strangers who use the computer after you. Also, never shop using an unsecured wireless network because hackers can access your payment information if the network is not protected.  To protect yourself, do all of your online shopping from your secure home computer. When shopping at home, make sure all your devices are protected with comprehensive security like McAfee LiveSafe™ service which protects all your PCs, tablets and smartphones.

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.

Cyber Monday Launches Black Hat Shopping Season

Yup, the holidays are here. And I don’t know about y’all, but the last thing I plan on doing is walking into any store to buy anything. Other than to get food, most of my shopping is generally done online.

4WPeople always ask me, “Aren’t you concerned your identity will be stolen? Don’t you worry about always giving out your credit card over the internet?” And I say nope. Not worried. Don’t care. Never have been. And neither should you. Seriously.

BUT! You still have to do something first to make sure that, to a certain degree, you will not end up a victim of fraud. And there are things you should do after you hand over your account information to monitor your accounts.

But no, you shouldn’t worry. Just do this:

Secure your devices: No matter what device or operating system you use, your data is only as secure as its hardware and software. That means updating everything and locking everything up, too.

Operating system: Each device’s manufacturer provides frequent software updates with critical security patches designed to patch any vulnerabilities that were discovered by researchers or criminal hackers. Set critical security patches to update automatically.

Browser: Your browser needs to be updated to its latest version for the same reason an operating system does. Only enter credit card numbers in sites that have HTTPS in the address bar. That means there’s encryption on that page.

Wireless: Always use an encrypted wireless connection using, at a minimum, WPA or WPA2 encryption. Otherwise, use a virtual private network software like one from Hotspot Shield VPN.

Websites: Only buy from legitimate websites that you already use for shopping—sites like Amazon and eBay that you know are relatively safe. Once you stray too far off the ranch, you risk your device being infected, plus orders you place may never arrive and your credit card numbers risk being used without your authorization.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to discussing  identity theft prevention. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247. Disclosures.

How Much Fraud On Record-Breaking Cyber Monday?

The Washington Post reports that this holiday season, Cyber Monday expanded into an entire week of record-breaking online shopping. From Sunday, November 27 through Saturday, December 3, consumers spent nearly $6 billion over the Internet, a 15% increase over the same week in 2010. During the first 32 days of the November-December holiday season, online spending had already reached $18.7 billion, also a 15% increase from last year.

Which begs the question: when the dust settles, how much of this uptick in online sales will equate to online fraud? It is inevitable that some consumers will detect unauthorized charges on their credit and bank accounts, and many retailers will suffer high chargebacks.

Consumers should seek out and patronize businesses that implement a comprehensive, in-depth approach to protecting customers from identity theft and financial fraud. They should also check credit and banking statements carefully, scrutinize each and every charge, and call their bank or credit card company immediately to refute any unauthorized transactions.

Retailers should consider adding device identification technology to prevent more crime upfront before product ships and stolen credit cards are charged. This emerging technology examines the PC, smartphone, or tablet being used to conduct an online transaction in order to determine whether the device’s characteristics, behavior, and history indicate a high level of risk. The leading provider of device identification and device reputation services is iovation Inc. Take a look at iovation’s stats from Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Fraud analysts from online retailers around the world interact with iovation’s database of device intelligence daily, and through sharing information and running real-time risk assessments, they block millions of online fraudulent attempts each year.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discussesCyber Monday on Fox Boston. Disclosures

6 More Holiday Shopping Tips

My goal is to not enter a single mall this holiday season. If I can do the majority of my holiday shopping at trusted online retailers, and the rest at Costco, then I’ve done well. To me, malls seem to be places for people with lots of time on their hands to drive around looking for parking spots and then stand in line with other people who apparently all enjoy being annoyed by each other’s pushiness. But maybe that’s just me.

Keep safe and sane this holiday season:

1. Look for indications of online security. Depending on your browser, there may be an icon of a yellow lock at the top of the window, near the address bar, or at the bottom, near the taskbar. If the website is secure, the yellow lock should be closed. Some browsers use a color coding system, displaying red to indicate that a website is not secure and may potentially be infected, or green to indicate that it’s okay.

2. Update your operating system. If your computer’s operating system is out of date, it may invite trouble when heading out to the wild, wild web. Go to your security center to download the latest critical security patches.

3. Update your browser. While your operating system may be up to date, which would mean that Internet Explorer is most likely up to date as well, if you are using Chrome or Firefox, you may need to update manually. Select “About” in your browser’s toolbar to check for updates.

4. Protect your computer with antivirus software. Antivirus protection that includes a firewall will, in most cases, shield you from “drive by downloads” and other malware. Even a major online retailer with a secure website can be vulnerable to criminal hackers.

5. Beware of phantom websites. Criminals love to pull the wool over unsuspecting eyes. One technique is to use “black-hat SEO” to place fake websites at the top of organic search results. Customers who attempt to make purchases via these fake websites are unknowingly transmitting credit card numbers directly to the hackers, and it’s safe to assume they’ll never receive the products they believe they’ve purchased.

6. Check credit card statements often. I still have to search the Internet for the names of unfamiliar retailers that appear on my credit card statements with unauthorized charges. Check your statements online weekly, and refute unauthorized charges within 60 days.

Most major online retailers are already using multiple sophisticated fraud prevention procedures to protect you. Oregon-based iovation Inc. is one hot technology company offering a device reputation service that alerts businesses to suspicious behavior such as someone attempting to hijack your account or use your stolen credentials (and  many others’) to steal from online businesses.

Robert Siciliano, personal security and identity theft expert contributor to iovation, discusses credit and debit card fraud on CNBC. Disclosures

5 Tips to a Secure Cyber Monday

For the past five years, Cyber Monday has been the marketing term for the Monday immediately following Black Friday. It is now one of the biggest online shopping days of the year, with 77% of online retailers reporting substantially increased sales.

Scammers seek to take advantage of seasonal opportunities like Cyber Monday, so beware of the following scams:

Fake websites: Criminals draw visitors to their deceptive websites using the same techniques as legitimate eTailers: search engine optimization, search engine marketing, and online advertising via AdWords. They use keywords to boost their rankings on Internet searches, causing their scam sites to appear alongside legitimate sites in search results. These same processes are also used to infect unsuspecting users with malware. Run a SiteAdvisor program to give you a sense of a website’s legitimacy.

Phishing: Many victims who find themselves on scam sites get there by clicking links in phishing emails, which offer high-end products for low prices. In this case, it should be easy enough to avoid spoofed websites. Anytime you receive an offer via email, you should automatically be suspicious. The same goes for offers received through Twitter or other social media.

Too good to be true: If you aren’t familiar with the eTailer, don’t even bother clicking the links. Do business with those you know like and trust. I do occasionally patronize whichever eTailer offers the lowest price, but only when purchasing a relatively inexpensive item, generally under $50. It’s safer to make larger purchases from eTailers that also have brick and mortar locations.

Typosquatters: Be sure you’ve typed in the correct address and are at the eTailer’s actual domain. Beware of cybersquatting and typosquatting, which rely on imitation websites that resemble your desired destination, but are in fact copies, using domains that are similar to the legitimate web address.

Unsecured sites: When placing an order, always check the address bar for “https,” which indicates a secure page. Your browser may also display a closed padlock, further confirming that the page is secure. Generally, scammers won’t take the time to set up secure sites.

Common sense can help you avoid becoming a victim of these and other scams. Beyond that, consider subscribing to McAfee Identity Protection, which offers proactive identity surveillance, lost wallet protection, and alerts when suspicious activity is detected on your accounts. For additional tips, please visit

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss Cyber Monday on The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet. (Disclosures)