Today we bring you a safety guide for your online shopping. Because sales periods like Black Friday are the perfect time to get caught up in bargain fever and get a head start on your holiday shopping. However, it can also be the excuse used by cybercriminals to compromise your security, make you buy fake products.
We are going to start the article with a series of tips that will try to teach you how to avoid being scammed by fraudulent sites or offers, something they may try to do by various methods such as phishing. Then, we will go on to give you a couple of tips to avoid installing malware on your computer through fake offers, and we will finish with tools to help you distinguish the offers that are really good from the others.
Avoid getting scammed by fraudulent sites
Let’s start by talking extensively about how to avoid being scammed by fraudulent sites that may make you give your personal or credit card details to an imposter, or make you send money to someone in exchange for a product that will never reach you.
Avoid buying in pages that you do not know
The first tip is one of the most obvious. In periods of offers, some cyber criminals can set up fraudulent web pages with non-existent offers of some products. Their intention in these cases would be that you would want to buy there and enter your personal or credit card data, and thus steal them. Or even that you pay them for a product that will never reach you.
Therefore, it is recommended that you only buy from websites you know, and avoid those you have never heard of. If you are in doubt, you can do a Google search with the name of that store. If it is popular or reliable, there should be plenty of results talking about it. But come on, the important thing is not to trust the pages you don’t know, especially if they have such a spectacular offer that makes a fool of the big online stores.
Another basic security rule is to make sure that the pages you visit start with HTTPS. The S indicates that the page has the security protocols to encrypt your browsing data. In addition, you will see that since a few months ago, pages that do not start with this but with HTTP will be blocked by default in the browser.
There may be a store or official website that has not yet adapted to this technology and is blocked. Here, if that happens, keep in mind that the page will be insecure even if it is official, so I would recommend you not to buy anything from them as far as possible.
If an offer is too good to be true…
As we told you at the end of the previous point, sometimes some fraudulent sites can make offers so good that it seems untrue that they are real… because many times they are not. Here, there are scammers who may try to take advantage of our eagerness to find deals and lead us through them to unreliable pages.
So, as we told you before, when you find an offer that seems unbelievable, start looking at it with skepticism, especially if it is an offer from an unknown site. Again, the best thing to do is to try to inform yourself about these websites and not get carried away. The more eye-catching the offer, the more suspicious you should be, and the more decoration the site may have to lure you in.
Avoid sites pretending to be other sites
Another problem is sites that impersonate other sites. When you manually enter a web page, you always know the page you are going to, since you have gone to the browser bar and typed in its URL address. However, if you have entered from a shortened URL through a social network or messaging application, there is always the risk that you have been taken to a page that is not the real one.
There are cybercriminals who can completely replicate a page so that when you enter it, it is practically identical to the online store they are impersonating. The most effective way to get out of doubt is to check the domain of a page. For example, it is not the same to enter techidence.com as techidence.teeeech.com.
If the address of the web you have entered has different words separated by a dot you should be careful, because the first word is the subdomain, and the second is the real domain. The domain is the address of the real website you have entered. So that it is not complicated if you enter techidence.red.com, you will really be entering a page belonging to red.com, but if you enter red.techidence.com, you will be entering a web that belongs to techidence.com.
It is also advisable to be careful with words after a / sign. For example, if you enter red.com/techidence, you will still be in a section of red.com. Be careful because some pages may try to mislead you by using in their address a name of a website they are trying to impersonate in order to trick you and steal all the data you add in the fraudulent purchase process. If you enter a page that opens a window with messages, this is already a reason to be suspicious.
Check the product information well
Even in large portals such as Amazon or eBay, you will have small businesses with profiles where they sell products, and maybe someone manages to avoid the security of the portal to sneak fake products. To avoid being sold fake products it is important that you check their description and name, and always look at reviews with other customers. It is especially interesting to see if any other buyer has uploaded a photo of the product.
Another thing to look out for is shipping times or shipping costs. Sometimes, a product can have an incredible offer on a reliable site, but it can do the trick of increasing the shipping costs excessively or sending it in a way that it arrives in a month or too late.
When in doubt, official store
It is not the cheapest, but if you have some doubts about buying a particular product, perhaps one of the first places to go is the official website of the manufacturer. These sites tend to always have more expensive prices, but if you are looking for the highest possible reliability, it is always a good starting point.
In addition, many manufacturers’ sites have sections with links to reputable vendors. This is especially useful for products that are a bit less popular and that you only find on lesser-known sites, such as a Raspberry Pi. You go to the official store, and they will offer you links to the official distributors of their product in their products.
Be careful where you click
Even on legitimate but not-so-well-known sites, you should also be careful where you click. Beware of advertisements in the form of buttons that can trick you, both when buying and when downloading files. There are ads that pretend to be purchase or download buttons, and what they do is take you to a fraudulent page or a page with fake offers.
Sometimes, this anomalous behavior is noticed when clicking on a button opens a new page or tab. Beware of these behaviors, and always check the address of the website you are on to make sure you are still where you are supposed to be.
Beware of fake profiles on social networks
This point is very important, as it is becoming more and more common for fraudsters to create fake accounts of well-known or lesser-known stores. Tomorrow I can create an account called Techidence and start posting things there. If I put on the same image as the official account and I work on the description and content, there may be people who fall into the trap. The same thing can happen with online stores.
Therefore, always check that the profile is real. If it is that of a large online store, it may have a verified profile on social networks to know that it really is the store it claims to be. But you should also be wary of profiles of small, non-existent stores that may use links to take you to fraudulent pages. Here, pay attention to how reliable the websites to which the links on social networks take you may be.
Beware of phishing emails
Phishing means fishing, and if there are fraudsters who do it through social networks, they can also try to trick you by e-mail. Here, extreme caution with emails with offers, since it may be someone posing as an online store that sends you to a fraudulent page through a disguised link.
To avoid being tricked by this type of e-mail trick, the first thing to do is to take a good look at the composition. If the scammers have not been careful, you will probably see poorly edited images or strange mistakes in the wording. But unfortunately, there are scammers who work these emails a lot and it is not always easy to distinguish them.
The trick is to look at the sender’s email address, specifically the sender’s domain. A reliable online store will have an email that ends in the domain of its official website. For example, @amazon.com. This makes it easy to know if the email is from whom it claims to be because if it is a large online store their email address will end with the same address.
However, there will be times when they will try to put the business name somewhere else in the address name other than the domain. For example, they may try firstname.lastname@example.org or some more elaborate addresses. Always pay attention to these things, because even if the sender’s name is always that of a business, it is important to pay attention to the email address from which the message is sent.
And, of course, it is also important to pay attention to where the links in the body of the email are actually sent from. You can hover your mouse over the link if you are on your PC, or better yet, if you click on the link, check the address of the page you have arrived at and make sure it is real.
Check the bottom of a website
In addition, this footer will also contain information about the company responsible for the online store, such as its VAT number and the rest of the company’s data. If this information does not appear, be suspicious and do not buy. And if the store does not comply with the days for returns that there is law in many countries, then do not trust too much.
Use reliable payment systems
And as none of us are infallible when it comes to identifying all kinds of scams, there is always one last measure that you should take into account to avoid problems. You should always use reliable payment systems, such as PayPal or other systems like the native payment system of your cell phone. If they are small or not well-known pages, my advice is to always use PayPal, as it has processes to recover your money if you have been scammed.
Larger and more well-known online stores will have their own payment systems, such as Amazon or eBay. But in general, try never to use native payment systems that force you to put your card, at least in case you do not know the store. If an online store does not offer PayPal as a payment method in 2021, then I would not trust it too much.
PayPal is a payment service that serves as an intermediary between you and an online merchant. This way, you don’t need to give your card details when you go to make the purchase, and they are data that won’t be stolen or leaked online. Offering PayPal as a payment method is always a sign of reliability. It may be an official store of some brand or music band that does not have PayPal, but again, outside the pages that are known to you, always try to use it.
Avoid any virus or malware
This point is going to be very short. Be wary of any message or website that makes you download a program, application, or browser extension. If a website has a good offer, you will be able to access it through their website. But you won’t need to use an extra plug-in to access the offer. And if you are forced to do so, you should be wary.
Here, one thing must be clarified. There will be online stores that suggest you download their official mobile apps, this is perfectly normal. However, to do so they will take you to the official stores of your cell phone, they will never ask you to install the APK file of an application since by doing so you will be unprotected and without knowing what you are actually installing.
As you will see below, there are perfectly reliable extensions and tools to control prices, but you have to install these extensions on your own initiative, and no website should force you to do so.
With this, be careful with chain messages or messages in social networks or forums in which this or another extension is discussed. If you are going to install something, always look for information about this extension or tool, check that it is real or reliable. And it is not enough that you find information on a website in English that you do not know, you have to find them on reliable pages to know that they are real articles that talk about it.
When installing extensions, also check the comments and reviews in the official extension store of your browser. And if you are asked to install it outside one of these stores, just as in the case of mobile applications, be wary of it by default.
Avoid fake offers
It is a fairly common practice in many stores, both online and physical, to raise the prices of a product before discounting it to make the discount look better than it really is. Fortunately, for online stores, you have several tools you can use to compare prices online and check the price history of major retailers.
Keepa and CamelCamelCamelCamel
Keepa is one of the best sites for tracking Amazon prices, and CamelCamelCamel is its great rival. What they do is to show you the history of the price evolution of each Amazon product, so you can always know to what extent the offer you are seeing is good.
They are services that only work for Amazon, but they have many utilities. You can install extensions that show you the price history in your browser, use their website, and also other things like setting alerts for when a product drops below a certain price.
Use an online price comparator
Another good alternative is to use online price comparators. This way, you will be able to check if the offer is better than that of other stores or if there is one with an even lower price. You have many to choose from, such as Idealo, Kelkoo, Google Shopping, or Twenga.
The way to use them is very simple. Almost all of them have a search bar where you can type what you want to find. When you do, you will see the results, with the stores where the product is available and the prices of each one. Sometimes you will have to select a product category in case you see that there are things that are called similar or mention the name you have indicated, but are not what you want to find.
The great advantage that these comparators offer is that you will not have to go page by page to find in each one the product you are looking for to look at its price, it is something much simpler and as easy to use as using any other search engine. Generally, these sites make money mainly through referral codes.