July 28, 2021


travel, Always a step ahead

Buyer Beware: How to protect your information while shopping online during the pandemic

4 min read

Security experts at Unisys said online sales are expected to jump by 33%, but less than one in three (31%) of Americans expressed concern about their data

Jamie Luster is a mom who lives in York County. The day after Thanksgiving, she’s normally hitting stores armed with a game plan of stops to check off her holiday list.

But in 2020, she’s armed with a keyboard and a credit card, as she is doing her shopping 100% online. 

“We have a family we know that has been, they have tested positive for COVID. And, this morning they posted all over their Black Friday deals they got this morning,” said Luster, who added that’s just one more reason why her family decided to stick to cyber shopping this holiday. 

Luster admits she will miss the mall, but she has been quarantining since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“I have a 3-year-old, now 4-year-old, and an 8-year-old. And, it’s hard because you can’t go stand in line,” said Luster.

Security experts at Unisys said online sales are expected to see a 33% increase from 2019. However, the 2020 Unisys Security Index™ found that less than one in three (31%) of Americans expressed concern about their data security. Therefore, they are providing helpful advice for shoppers to avoid the new tactics hackers are taking in 2020.

In fact, Mathew Newfield of Unisys said social media and online deals are “exposing consumers around the world to significant scams.” He said hackers are also sending those scams through text messages and are cooking up plenty of travel schemes too.

“The first thing we’re recommending as an offensive play is take a deep breath. Really analyze what it is you’re seeing. Because, if it’s too good to be true it most likely is,” said Newfield. He continued, “on the defensive side, we highly recommend to spend some time making sure the systems that you’re using are patched, you’re using proper anti-virus, you’re using secure passwords. Password 1-2-3-4 is not a good password.”

Read the full recommendations from Unisys here. 

– Beware of solicitations on social media. Instead, go directly to the manufacturer’s website to make sure the deal is legit. 

– Beware of hackers posing as vendors offering ‘buy now’ deals and especially large discounts

– Beware of hackers ramping up phising attacks by posing as sellers that offer shipping status updates. 

– Hover over links to make sure the websites are legitimate and look up the email address of the sender

“Does the site have things like SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). You got to look for that lock. It’s not a ‘for sure’ sign that you’ve got a good website, but it’s at least a good indicator,” said Newfield. 

Meantime another layer of protection involves picking up online orders at the stores. This allows shoppers to skip any potential fraud from a third-party retailer or possibly having their package stolen off their front porch.

The Capital City Mall is just one location offering ‘mall to go’ shopping in order to allow customers to pick up online orders at the store or in the malls parking lot.

“It allows them to pick up their merchandise from the safety of their vehicles, in our parking lots which have 24 hour surveillance, and there’s no need to worry about that item or gift sitting on your front door step,” said Justin Roth, spokesperson for the mall. 

As for how Luster’s online shopping experience is going, she admits “we’ve already received a lot of things that were not what we wanted and we are very cautious about the hackers with credit cards and shipping and everything.” But she said she started shopping early because she expected a second wave of COVID-19 this winter as she’s been watching the case numbers closely and has been listening to the advice from medical experts.

As for being able to hide the gifts from her children, Luster said “it’s horrible because this year they’re so used to seeing the Amazon truck pull up and they’re like, so what’s in this box? What’s in that box?”

Check out more advice from Unisys for shoppers:

1. Patch your home IoT devices. Make sure you are protecting your Wi-Fi network and any device around the house connected to your network by patching and updating to the latest firmware and checking the brand and model for security risks. It is also important to change default passwords and use passwords of significant strength (greater than eight characters with three of the following four (upper case, lower case, number, special character). Do not use words or deviations of words as passwords.

  1. Multi-factor authentication is not just for businesses. If you’ve ever had to use a verification code texted to your cell phone to log into a personal bank or credit card account, you’re at least vaguely familiar with the concept of two-factor or multi-factor authentication (MFA). Today, consumers can choose from additional authentication options, as many apps offer MFA options. In this instance, consumers have the option of setting up voice or facial recognition-based access, or to receive push notifications if a new or unauthorized login is detected.
  2. Make sure you’re using secure sites. It’s important to use secure resources when shopping, especially for any site that asks you to input credit card or bank account data to complete a purchase. Make sure you only use trusted, verified sites that you are familiar with, and be sure to type the URL into your browser rather than risk inadvertently clicking a malicious link.

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