With the pandemic still in full force, many retailers are turning to the Internet—and so are the scammers. While there are a lot of deals to be had online this year, there are a few pitfalls to keep an eye out for. Matt Barnett shared tips for staying safe this shopping season with NBC10 Philadelphia. Here's what he recommended.

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The Dos and Don't of Online Shopping

Here is an overview of best practices for shopping online. These tips will help ensure that you don't get scammed, and if it happens, you're in the best possible position to be protected.

Do:

  • Stick to brand name sites (e.g., Amazon, Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond)
  • Notice how we didn't link them above? Don't click on links to these sites, type them in manually to the browser
  • Pay for purchases with gift cards, virtual credit card numbers (more below), PayPal, or credit cards to ensure you have fraud protection
  • Avoid deals too good to be true—they usually are
  • Research your retailer: try putting "[the business name] scam" or "[thebusinesswebsite.com] scam" into Google and searching for reasons not to use the site
  • Be objective in your research: we tend to look for reasons that support our choices not condemn them, but being objective may help you stay safe
Don't:
  • Rule #1 Never pay for anything with cash (i.e., bank transfers), checks, or money orders online—as these payment methods have zero consumer protection and banks aren't likely to give you money back if you lose it to a scam
  • Search for Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals posted to used shopping services (Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist)—remember, there are no Holiday deals on used merchandise
  • If you do end up buying something used, choose a safe meeting place to preform the exchange. Maintain Social [Physical] Distance, sanitize the product before taking it home, and choose a safe place to do the exchange (e.g., daytime in a grocery/convenience store parking lot)

What is a Virtual Credit Card Number?

To protect customers from fraud, credit card companies have introduced the concept of virtual credit cards. The implementation varies from bank-to-bank but the idea is the same. Reduce fraud by generating temporary card numbers you can use for one-time (or time period) transactions, after which, the number will no longer work. Again, each credit card company implements this differently but as an example, if you wanted to purchase a product from a website that you weren't sure about and the deal was too good to pass up, you can obtain a virtual card number from your CC company and authorize a single purchase with it. If that site or merchant turns out to be a scam and attempts to use your credit card info somewhere else, the card won't work. Here is an informative article that covers most major credit card companies and their virtual options:

So that's the basics, but if you have any questions or concerns about a site, deal, or need more info, you can click "Contact" in the top right corner of this page and choose the "Consumer Question" option in the drop down. One of our experts will get back to you with an answer. Consumer shopping advice is a free service this holiday season from SEVN-X. Stay safe and Happy Holidays!

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About the Author

Matt Barnett, CISSP, GFCA
Chief Strategist & Cofounder

After years in IT, performing network and system administration, software development, and architecting cloud migrations, Matt began to focus his efforts in cybersecurity. Matt draws on his technical competency and law enforcement background to assist clients, in both proactive and incident response capacities. In addition, Matt has developed an arsenal of applications, strategies, policies, and procedures to assist clients in achieving better cybersecurity.