Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Stay Safe While Shopping Online This Holiday Season

Whether you’re making the last-minute digital dash for the family Secret Santa present, ordering groceries for your Christmas Day feast, or eyeing off the Boxing Day sales; many of us parents will be heading online to tick the final items of our lengthy holiday season to-do lists.

With stay-at-home orders and retail safety measures in place for much of the year, online shopping quickly became a part of every consumer’s day-to-day. In fact, the latest research from McAfee shows nearly a third of Aussies have been shopping online 3-5 days a week, and over one in ten consumers are shopping online daily!

It’s no surprise that this trend only skyrocketed once the holiday season kicked off.  Being able to shop anytime from anywhere is just so life changing as a parent, particularly when we’re all juggling the roles of parent, worker, taxi driver, teacher and Santa’s helper all at once.

But while many of us may feel like online shopping ‘pros’ with plenty of practice under our belt, the time pressure and financial stress of the already chaotic holiday season means many of us let our guard down which is often a recipe for digital safety disaster. And the few days in the leadup to the big day – when we are all feeling stressed and overwhelmed – is therefore one of the riskiest times.

And cybercriminals know this and have planned accordingly. From phony gift cards, fake websites, phishing texts and emails offering too-good-to-be-true holiday sales, they work very hard hard to catch as many unsuspecting Aussies as possible. 

But even before we had to negotiate the flurry of holiday scams in December, Aussies had already lost more than $7.6 million according to Scamwatch with a whopping 14,000 reports of online scams reported! Whether it ws puppy scams, delivery scams or COVID related scams, 2020 has certainly been an eventful year.

How To Stay Safe While Shopping Online

The good news is that there are a few strategies you can put in place to ensure you don’t become a scam victim this holiday period. Here are my top tips to get you started:

Slow down and think before you click

If you think something seems too good to be true – trust your gut, you’re probably right! Most holiday scams rely on online shoppers not thinking critically about what they are clicking on and who they are giving their personal information to as they rush to purchase gifts for before stock runs out, for a good price, and in time for Christmas. By taking an extra minute to double-check if a link or message appears legitimate – looking for spelling errors in messages or if the email is coming from non-official domains like Hotmail or G-mail – you may just be able to stop many scammers in their tracks.

Passwords, passwords, passwords

By using easy to guess passwords, and the same password across all accounts, you’re giving cybercriminals the master key to your personal information. Strong passwords that use upper and lower case letters, numbers, symbols and phrases – not the names of your kids or family pets – will make it that much harder for scammers to get their hands on what’s yours. And if you can, set up two-factor authentication to add another layer of protection that requires a device you physically own, not just a password you know, to log in.

Protect yourself at the device level

If you’re a busy parent shopping on the go, not only from home but from work, friends’ houses, cafes and shopping centres, you may want to look into a virtual private network (VPN) to mask your internet activity from cybercriminals on the go. A VPN also means you can use Wi-Fi with confidence knowing any information you are sharing is encrypted and totally private – perfect for online shopping!

Ensuring all your devices have security software installed will also add another line of defence against viruses, phishing attacks and malicious websites, giving you peace of mind that one small cyber mistake won’t be the downfall of your phone or the family computer.

2020 has been a year full of challenges that have tested so many of us. So please, don’t make it any more difficult and invest a few extra minutes to ensure you are protecting yourself when shopping online. Spending Christmas Day on the phone to the bank investigating fraudulent charges, cancelling your cards and changing passwords is NOT my definition of a relaxing Christmas!!

McAfee’s Cybermum and Cyber Safety Ambassador for Australia and New Zealand, Alex, is a mother of four boys who juggles family, work, home life, hobbies and her children’s ever growing social lives (on and offline). Like many parents, Alex has concerns about the safety of her children, who are growing up online world. Alex shares her thoughts on internet safety issues through her own experiences, insights and lessons learned, to help keep kids and families safe online.