Use Credit Cards To Shop Online – Not Debit Cards

  • Beware of Christmas subject headers in emails
  • Dead giveaway is bad grammar
  • Look for SSL certification

A new survey shows that a number of Australians are doing their Christmas shopping online, but software security provider Symantec  warns that people need to be vigilant when putting their details online, and that they should use a credit card, not a debit card when making purchases.

The Newspoll survey shows that 46 percent of Australians have bought, or intend to buy, a Christmas present this year from a local or overseas website.  In total, 31 percent of those surveyed said they were more likely to buy something from a United States website now that the Australian dollar is roughly equal in value to the US dollar.

The telephone survey commissioned by online security expert, Norton by Symantec Corp. was conducted in early November among a representative sample of 1202 adults aged 18+ nationally.

Norton Internet Safety Advocate for Pacific region, Michele Thompson, says while shoppers are looking for the hottest deals from online retailers to kick off their holiday shopping, cybercriminals are also looking to “score big” – by stealing shoppers’ personal and financial information. 

“We already know that 69 percent of Australians have become victims of some sort of cybercrime.  However, by taking simple precautions, consumers can ensure their holidays are free of spam, viruses and online scams,” said Thompson.

The release of the survey results coincides with Computer Security Day (30 November), an event observed worldwide to remind people to protect their computers and information. This year, cyber thieves got off to an early start and Norton expects them to continue their nefarious holiday scams. 

Norton says it has observed spam messages promoting replica watches, health products, free gift cards and fake product offers related to Christmas with the following email subject lines:

  • Subject: Grab em before Christmas
  • Subject: Just in time for Christmas – cheap watches
  • Subject: Hi xxxx, get 70% off Christmas

“Most of these spam messages encourage consumers to get in early because of limited product supply or to get the best deals,” says Thompson. “You should be suspicious of emails offering Christmas discounts that seem too good to be true or are filled with grammatical errors. Such emails could be spam that is trying to trick you into downloading a virus or giving away personal information and should be deleted.”

Thompson says consumers should also be wary of paying for items that never get delivered or are counterfeit. She says online shoppers should be wary of any web retailer that refuses normal payment methods or requests payment off the web. Consumers should look for SSL certification (Verisign, Comodo, GeoTrust, buySAFE) to ensure data is transmitted securely.

“We don’t want people to lose sight of keeping their personal information secure while in pursuit of a Christmas bargain.”

The Australian Government website staysmartonline.gov.au has also issued warnings to consumers about the online threats posed by the Christmas period.

The site says that people using the internet for banking, shopping, buying tickets, booking holidays and contacting friends and family this festive season should be aware of the risks involved.

Norton says one of the best things consumers can do to avoid becoming victims of cybercrime is to become better informed.

Earlier this month, Norton teamed up with the Federal Government and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to launch a new public education display called BLK MKT (Black Market).

The display aims to raise consumer awareness of cybercrime and provides advice on how to avoid becoming a victim.  The BLK MKT display will tour Australia over the next 12 months, visiting key locations and selected V8 Supercar race rounds, including this weekend’s (2-4 December) Sydney Telstra 500 at Olympic Park.

Consumers will also be able to view the free display at Parramatta Church Street mall on Thursday 9 December through to Saturday 11 December.

You don’t have to be a computer genius to protect yourself online.  By following a few common sense tips, you can make the most out of your Internet experience, while protecting you and your family from online threats.  Increase your awareness of online security and help deny cybercriminals access to your personal information.

Michele Thompson’s Top Tips for safe online shopping include:

  • Charge It!– Seventy-four percent of people use a debit card for online purchases. That’s a big no-no if you want to keep yourself safe and sane during the holidays. Using a credit card when shopping online is the way to go. That way, if your account number falls into a cybercriminals’ hands, your bank account won’t be drained and you’ll have a much easier time getting the issue resolved with your credit card company.
  • “Password” is not a good password– When it comes to passwords, keep it complicated and change them frequently. Sixty-two percent of people don’t change their passwords frequently or use complex passwords, making it easier for cybercriminals to break into their online accounts.
  • Make sure your holidays are filled with cheer, not fear – If you receive a suspicious email – whether it’s offering discounts that are too good to be true or is filled with grammatical errors – delete the message.  It could be spam that’s trying to trick you into downloading a virus or giving away your personal information.
  • Be wary of scams –Don’t get stuck paying for something that never gets delivered or is counterfeit by being wary of any retailer that refuses normal payment methods or requests payment off the Web. Look for SSL certification (e.g., Verisign, Comodo, GeoTrust, buySAFE) to ensure data is transmitted securely.
  • Use visual cues to identify safe websites, do your homework– Many fraudulent Web sites exist only to “phish” for your personal information and money.  Scan the entire web page for a trust mark, such as the VeriSign Trusted Seal. These marks demonstrate that trusted authorities have taken comprehensive measures to certify such things as security, online business ethics or customer privacy standards.
  • Make privacy a priority –Avoid sites that share your info with marketing partners. This information is often hidden in fine print. Read a Web site’s policies or user agreements carefully or look for a privacy seal indicating the retailer is respectful of your privacy (e.g., TRUSTe, BBBOnline Privacy, ESRB Privacy).
  • Avoid search siphons – Don’t pick your retailer solely based on search results. “Cybersquatters” and “Typosquatters” lure you away from legitimate retailers by including a brand name in a URL or relying on you to misspell a brand name. Others show a low price for your item in search results but not sell it, or display an ad with your search item but not sell it. These sites thrive by earning advertising revenue from accidental visits. 

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