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Online shopping has been overtaking brick-and-mortar retail for years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has put the shift to ecommerce into overdrive. As cases resurge in many areas, consumers are increasingly turning to online gift-buying as a safer alternative to crowded stores. However, while virtual aisles hold no threats of COVID-19 spread, cyberthreats loom large, particularly threats against user passwords

Consumers are woefully unaware and unprepared to protect themselves against threats as their shopping moves online.

Here are five tips to protect your online security while online shopping.

1- Pay with credit cards, not debit cards

It’s good practice to never use a debit card to make online purchases. Payment card theft is one of the most common types of cybercrime, and it can happen even at known retailers. While consumer protection laws limit consumers’ liability for fraudulent credit card charges, debit cards don’t offer the same levels of protection. Additionally, a cybercriminal armed with your debit card number can empty your bank account, leaving you with no money to pay your household bills.

2- Shop at familiar stores

‘Tis the season for cybercriminals to set up phony online storefronts to phish for payment card data and other personal information. Patronize well-known retailers or stores whom you have previously done business with. If you are tempted by a merchant you’ve never heard of, Google the company’s name and look for its social media sites, customer reviews, and its record at the Better Business Bureau. Steer clear of any merchant who requests payment by wire transfer or cryptocurrency.

3- Beware of social media “coupons”

Phony social media “coupons” are another scam that’s increased in frequency since the beginning of the pandemic. Often, these coupons claim that recipients can get deeply discounted or free merchandise, with even more rewards if they share the link to their social media feeds. The links lead to malicious websites that attempt to phish for victims’ personal information, install drive-by malware on their computer, or both.

4- Beware of phishing schemes

Phishing schemes have risen dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and schemes are getting more sophisticated. In addition to email, you may receive phishing attempts through social media messaging or SMS. These messages, which are often designed to appear as if they’ve come from legitimate retailers or shipping companies, may ask you to “confirm” your account or purchase information by clicking on a link, or they may contain attachments that purport to be a “receipt,” “shipping notice,” or “coupon”. Never click on any unsolicited links or attachments. If you doubt the legitimacy of a message, go directly to the company’s website and log in that way.

5- Protect your passwords

Use strong, unique passwords for every online account, enable multi-factor authentication (2FA) on all sites that support it.

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