In past years, many shoppers have switched to e-commerce as the method of obtaining the clothing, electronics, household items, toys, and other gifts they seek. As a result, both consumers and retailers must be especially wary of opportunistic scammers who will offer too-good-to-miss deals in order to steal sensitive information and profit off their victims’ losses.

While many of us are readying our credit cards, you will also want to take some extra time to consider who might be able to access the data you’re handing over. Cybercriminals will be especially active this year, ready to launch an attack wherever they see an opening. From phishing scams to malicious applications, they’re waiting for unsuspecting shoppers to be lured into their traps—which means the best way to mitigate risk is by remaining vigilant.

3 Most Common Cyber Shopping Threats

1. Public WiFi: Shopping at home on a private network is one thing. However, you may want to think twice before making online purchases using a public WiFi connection from a coffee shop, mall, or grocery store. Cybercriminals more frequently hack these networks to intercept your data. They may even camp out in public areas, broadcasting a hotspot labeled “Free Public WiFi” that, when an unsuspecting visitor connects, can be used to capture all of the traffic moving between the device and an e-commerce site (or any website, really). Avoid public WiFi if possible unless you have a secure VPN connection, and wait until you are home to connect to a secure, trusted network.

2. Fake E-Commerce Sites: Plenty of fake shopping sites emerge during the holidays, designed to lure consumers into providing credit card or personal information by offering impossible-to-beat deals or access to hard-to-find items that, in reality, don’t exist. If you’re visiting an e-commerce site for the first time, do some research to verify its legitimacy before making a purchase. Look up reviews across the internet, make sure the company has a physical address and phone number listed, and stay away from sites that require direct payments from your bank, wire transfers, or ask for gift cards as a form of payment.

3. Credit Card Skimming Software: Credit card skimmers aren’t limited to physical retail stores—they can be found online, as well. Point-of-sale (POS) RAM scraping malware has become increasingly popular among cybercriminals in recent years. First, attackers must gain access to a point-of-sale system, such as a shopping cart application. They then infect the host with malware designed to scrape credit card data from the source. The transaction still goes through, but all of the credit card information is also collected. As a consumer, it’s not always easy to avoid credit card skimmers but the majority of large, reputable retailers now have measures in place (like a web application firewall) to prevent them.

Promote Safe Online Shopping Habits

The best way to avoid falling victim to Cyber Shopping threats is to practice safe online shopping habits. Use common sense when browsing online and stick to trusted retailers for holiday deals and promotions. And when you make those purchases, keep in mind that credit cards offer built-in consumer fraud protection! And don’t forget to pass on your knowledge to your friends and family, as well. This way, we can all enjoy a safe and relaxing holiday season.

This article is brought to you courtesy of Fortinet – ‘Digital security, everywhere you need it’.