How to protect yourself this holiday shopping season
Published December 07, 2023 4 min read
Explore this special holiday release of the Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report to learn how to protect yourself while holiday shopping.
The holidays are upon us once again. Whilst shopping will be trickier than usual this season because of high prices due to inflation, savvy shoppers should also be alert to security concerns as they pick out holiday gifts.
We recently completed the 2023 Norton Cyber Safety Insights Report, Holiday Special Release conducted by Dynata on behalf of Gen. The survey took place online in August 2023 amongst 1,000 UK adults. It found that 20% of UK adults have been targeted by a scam during a past holiday season, with 31% of those targeted (6% of all consumers) falling victim to a scam. In total, they lost over £200 on average and up to £5,007.
Yikes! Nothing brings down the holiday cheer like losing hundreds of pounds from a carefully planned gift budget. With that in mind, here are four tips to help ensure your plans don’t get derailed by an opportunistic scammer this season.
Know that there are a lot of fake and fishy shops online
To find low prices, you might be likely to search online for your desired product and click on the search result with the lowest price. You’re not alone: Our study found that 81% of UK adults are likely to take actions to help cut costs this season due to inflation and the rising cost of living. However, if you take the lowest-price strategy when searching online, it’s possible you may end up at a fake store set up specifically to scam you.
Some of the abundant fake online shops take your money and send you nothing. Others send you low-quality goods and hope that you won’t complain. Such sites may be ordering cheap goods in bulk from other retailers and then passing them on to you at a huge mark-up.
Some fake online shops might simply steal your credit card information or other personal information. That’s especially bad news when you consider that our survey showed that 11% of online shoppers are willing to share their personal information (e.g., name, email, and birthdate) to get a high demand gift or toy over the holiday season.
Don’t trust a site just because it’s slick and pay attention to the site’s reviews
Fake sites fool you with sophisticated design. Even if a site looks legit, you should still be wary: Scammers are really good at creating slick, sophisticated sites quickly. This way they can respond to trends in search behaviour. Similarly, an ad on social media may look polished, but that doesn’t mean it leads to a legitimate site.
E-shops may also trick you by stacking up positive reviews on their site. They might delete bad reviews left by customers or have a completely fake review system on their site. If you are purchasing from a new e-shop, it can be helpful to check third-party sites to check the site’s reputation, keeping in mind that scammers will sometimes flood these third-party review sites with fake positive reviews, so be sure to take a close look at them and read some of the site’s less positive reviews. In general, find ways to be sure that the site has a high share of satisfied customers.
Beware of accepting notifications from sites you don’t know
Fake shops might ask you to sign up for notifications, perhaps by incentivising you with discounts or other benefits. Your permission allows them to put arbitrary popups on your screen, which can make you think your computer has a virus that you can fix by clicking on a link.
Clicking this link can give hackers, identity thieves, and other bad actors access to your computer and personal information, especially if your antivirus software is out of date. Always be on your guard whenever a site asks you to enter information or click on a link to enable notifications. , especially if your antivirus software is out of date. Always be on your guard whenever a site asks you to enter information or click on a link to enable notifications.
Take actions to protect yourself
Beyond knowing the dangers and understanding how scammers can trick you, there are a few practical things you can do to help protect yourself as you shop this holiday season.
First, use Norton Private Browser when browsing for online shopping. It’s a free browser that helps block online threats, ad trackers, and phishing attempts. It can help protect you against some of the scams you might run across this holiday season.
Next, when you see a site that seems too good to be true or you see a popup on your computer, do a little research before clicking anything or providing any information. Search the domain name and the word “scam” to see if anything comes up. In many cases, you’ll find reports about scams related to the site if other people have encountered problems.
The best approach is to be sceptical of all sites you aren’t familiar with, including those that look legitimate. Be an informed and defensive consumer and use the software that’s available to help you stay safe. With a little bit of knowledge and some practical action, you can get your holiday shopping done without a hitch.
Clare Stouffer, a Gen employee, is a writer and editor for the company’s blogs. She covers various topics in cybersecurity.
Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc.