Top tips for safe Christmas shopping online


As Christmas gets nearer, the pressure to complete our shopping on time increases. In the six weeks leading up to Christmas last year, £25bn was spent online. This panic can encourage us to take unnecessary risks with our security.

Pete Turner, consumer security expert at anti-virus provider Avast has some  tips to avoid falling for a  fake deal or being snared by criminals looking for bank details.

  1. Only enter your personal and payment information on sites using https. Look for the padlock icon in the browser. This indicates that the site is backed by an encrypted connection.
  1. As you will probably open several accounts with retailers in the lead up to Christmas, it’s crucial you are careful with your passwords. Make sure to create unique and complex passwords which include numbers, characters and symbols. Do not use memorable dates as these are easy to guess. Using a password manager allows you to secure all your passwords in one location, adding an extra layer of automated security to the login process. This is safer than saving your passwords in your browser. If your computer has been hacked, it’s easy for cybercriminals to find your passwords and access your online accounts.
  1. Always ensure the Wi-Fi connection you are using is secure. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are like gold dust to hackers. If you are connected to the same network, they can easily see the websites you access, your browsing history, emails and login information. It’s worth investing in a Wi-Fi inspector tool to assess the security levels of your connection, or setting up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to enable you to browse the net and shop securely.
  1. Remember if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. You should always make sure that any email deals you receive are genuine before you respond. Firstly, check content for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. This is an immediate red flag. If the domain name looks suspicious it’s worth spending a couple of minutes researching the URL to find out who it’s registered to. Finally, if the email content looks out of place in any way, avoid clicking on any embedded links or downloading any attachments.
  1. If buying a connected device or toy, take precautions to use them safely. Research the manufacturer’s security history, change any default passwords immediately, familiarise yourself with the privacy settings and turn off location services when the device or toy isn’t being used.
  1. Finally, install and maintain strong security. While it’s important to exercise caution when you browse and shop online, there are some security threats that simply cannot be avoided. There are very good free antivirus packages like Avast Free Antivirus that protect from malware, spyware and also detect weaknesses in home Wi-Fi networks so you can help ensure that your devices remain secure.

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