Online Shopping Tips to Beat Scammers, Spammers

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By Christine Gaylican | November 21, 2012 4:15 PM EST

The power of online shopping could be both liberating and problematic if one is not as conspicuous as ever. Scanning through colourful and interactive catalogues of products and services spells fun as the new shopping flare. Nonetheless. shopping or just browsing, one should not let your guard down as there are those on the watch to do some online mischief.

You might had been disappointed with Click Frenzy, but online shopping remains ideal for virtual shopping and a lucrative business for retailers.

Bitdefefender, one of the world's firsts in internet security, warns the millions of Aussie shoppers to watch out for scams, scammers, and spammers, who would likely do their best to to piggyback on the surge of online shopping beginning this week towards the Yuletide season.

Australians have spent $11.7 billion in online stores last year and the trend is rising, with users having spent more than $12 billion in the e-commerce sphere already by September, according to the National Australia Bank.

While retailers in observing countries are stocking their supplies in preparation for increasing demand, and computer users are checking the shopping list once again, scammers put out traps for those who forget about the safety checklist.

Like all online purchases, making payments and choosing the suppliers makes all the difference between a successful online shopping spree that is worth waiting all year for, and a sheer disaster that can leave a bank account completely empty with nothing to show for it.

Here are a few tips and tricks users should know when online shopping beginning today:

•         Avoid purchasing while connected to an unprotected Wi-Fi network. If you need to refresh the web page for the product you want to buy to get the best price, it would be safe to use your phone's or tablet's 3G network.

•        Make sure you're not getting phished. As usual, whenever national events such as Click Frenzy take place, phishers use discounts and coupons as bait to lure unwary users. They steer them towards spoofed web locations that look alike the original site to trick people into disclosing their credit-card details. Since most web shops now have SSL certificates to confirm their identity, a simple glance over the browser's address bar will reveal whether you are on the right page.

•        Don't shop from work, library, school lab or other computer not under your complete control. School labs and work computers can be equipped with surveillance mechanisms (i.e. keyloggers) that monitor the current user's activity as per the fair use policy. You'd better wait till you get home or use your mobile device to place the order and pay for it.

•         Don't underestimate the power of malware. This year's most prominent e-threats are banker Trojans and rootkit-based malware. They mostly specialise in intercepting banking information, changing transactions and logging your account details while staying completely undetected. Make sure you run a 60-second QuickScan or a full system scan with your favourite antivirus. If you're shopping from the family PC, use a secure browser such as the SafePay browser to go through check-out with full confidence that your credentials and transactions are not being manipulated.

•          Never buy products that are advertised through spam, regardless of how tempting the offer may sound.  A legit business cares too much for its image to destroy it with a wave of unsolicited commercial offerings - if you get it, trash it. Or, if you have an antivirus solution with antispam, let it handle potentially unwanted advertisements for you. And always keep your browser, your software and your antivirus updated.

•          Online retailers need to scale the network up in advance. Cyber-criminals are usually exploiting the fact that online sales events are responsible for a significant percentage of yearly sales and target the online sales websites with a DDoS-type attack, as most server resources are already consumed by legit customers.

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