The Festive Season is upon us. Smiles opening the presents. We have been busy choosing and shopping.

Very often online. Internet shopping is growing apace, over 16% last year, 2015, expected to be over 14% growth this year. About 77% of Internet users are shopping online.

So, it is not surprising that online crime is joining in. In the UK alone, victims of online crime lost over £16m to cyber crooks. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner, with amazing offers of deep discounts.

But don’t be mesmerised by these offers, some are too good to be true. If they are too good to be true, chances are they are not true! They may be from cyber crooks trying to get to your wallet, steal your card details, or even worse, steal your identity!

These two days are not the only ones targeted by the fraudsters. They are laying in waiting to pounce on last minute Christmas shoppers.

Digital crooks anticipate the online shopping spree and time their action in this festive period. They swamp the market with phishing emails, malicious links and online attacks and scams.

Phishing emails are among the most obvious threats. They make the message look very legitimate to instil confidence, with a similar look and feel to the legitimate business; the sting in the tail is that they will ask your PIN number or other sensitive information for some made-up reason that they make sound quite legitimate.

There are also fake websites that look almost like the real one. You ‘buy’ something on one of them, you have given your credit card details and your money to a crook.

Another favourite is special offers received via social media; click on the link and it will unleash malware on your phone, tablet or PC.

But how to fight the crooks?

Never click on a suspicious link.

If the email look slightly suspicious and you are curious, don’t. Even if you know the sender; his/her mail box may have been hacked.

Passwords

We have written in the past about secure passwords (https://www.web-consulting-team.com/en/blog/95-have-you-been-hacked). It is all the more relevant at this time of the year to have complex passwords, with a least 8 characters, mixing upper case, lowercase, numbers and special characters if the system allows them.

Don’t use the same password for everything.

Check the URL*

Only shop on a website that has the shop URL. Make sure it is the real thing, not a look-alike URL

Check the connection is secure

You should see ‘https’ at the start of the URL; it means that data transmission is encrypted.

Switch to data

When shopping on your phone, switch to data connection rather than using a public WiFi connection which will not be secure.

Information

Don’t give away more information than the vendor needs to process your order. For example, if they ask for your national insurance or social security number, run a mile.

Please keep in mind that fraudsters and online criminals are relentless and will stop at nothing.

The City of London Police have teamed up with Action Fraud to try and reduce cyber-crime.

Report anything suspicious call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use the online reporting tool http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/report-a-fraud-including-online-crime-questions

*The URL or Uniform Resource Locator is commonly known as the web address.

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