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Christmas 2017: how to protect your online purchases

By now, making purchases on e-commerce sites has become a habit for Americans, but without the proper precautions, there are still many risks. Christmas shopping is now in full swing. And for us Americans, our favorite store is the internet. At this point, it’s pretty much a habit to go to the actual store, check out the items you’re interested in, and then quickly search sites like Amazon to find out if there’s a better deal online.

It’s an already known fact that nowadays people are using smartphones to browse the Internet more than they use their other devices. They even do their Christmas shopping from their phones. According to a Statista Study from 2017, 62% of Americans are choosing this method because they can find the best deals and save money. At the same time, 48% of the respondents claim that the main reason for purchasing Christmas gifts directly from their smartphones is because this way, their data is secured and protected.

There’s a secure future for the sale of many categories of commodities on the internet, also thanks to concepts such as multi-channel and omnichannel, which provide a constant synergy between the business strategies of a brand both offline and online. An example? Being able to purchase a discounted printer online and pick it up in store, where there may be an offer on ink cartridges or reams of paper.

There are many choices, many possibilities, but still many risks if an adequate level of attention is not paid when making online purchases. In what sense? Hackers and cybercriminals are always lurking: they try to trick internet users into entering secret passwords in order to steal sensitive information and, when possible, gain direct access to personal accounts at credit institutions. It’s true that today, transferring money from one account to another is not that simple, thanks to solutions such as two-factor authentication; but platforms exist which, for various reasons, are intrinsically considered secure when they’re actually not. So what can we do? Here are five rules to follow in order to protect yourself when searching for gifts on the internet!

Check the security of a website

There are two ways to quickly find out if a website has a solid foundation or not. First is the presence of the suffix https. The second: that little lock before the web address, which means that the site supports SSL encryption, which comes into play when you enter codes and sensitive data; these then become encrypted and illegible to prying eyes.

Provide the least amount of information possible

Your first name, last name, and shipping address are okay, but when it comes to entering your payment details, it’s better to be cautious. The SSL rule applies, but that’s not all: there’s no reason to enter the three numbers on the back of the card if you’re not on the credit institution’s website (where an SSL is also obligatory), and it’s also best not to connect an account, especially for a temporary purchase, to social profiles such as Facebook and Twitter, which could very well be hacked by cybercriminals and used for blackmail and tampering.

Pay with prepaid cards or secure systems

Going back to payment options, a good idea is to use prepaid cards loaded with an amount slightly greater than what you have to pay online. In this way, you ensure that there’s not a hefty sum available if there’s a breach online or at an ATM, carried out through techniques known as skimming. There are also methods, such as PayPal, that are capable of protecting your purchase even after completing it, by “freezing” the amount until you receive the purchased item at home. At that point, either everything is unblocked or a justified claim is made.

Be wary of phishing!

Those hackers again… During the Christmas season, there is a steep increase in the number of fake e-mail messages received, which are created specifically to attract malicious clicks. This practice, known as mail phishing, tries to trick internet users with promotional messages and phantasmagorical discounts on the hottest items. The body of the e-mail contains web addresses that, once visited, can directly infect the computer or ask for usernames and passwords to the most popular platforms. This doesn’t entail a direct loss of money, but it does involve more serious consequences in the long term, such as private messages being read and extortion activities being carried out after your computer is blocked through malware and viruses, otherwise frightfully known as cryptolocker.

Use protection software

All of these problems can be resolved with a high-quality protection software. The latest-generation antivirus programs can perform a real-time analysis of compromised websites (those lacking certificates) and e-mail messages from senders whose domains are considered fake or suspicious. You should still continue paying careful attention, but this type of technology can lend a huge helping hand. Avira Antivirus, for example, is a great companion that is capable of intercepting malicious traffic and blocking it from the outset, thus preventing you from making an unpleasant Christmas blunder.

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