Happy online shopper

7 tips for safe online shopping this Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Buyers ahoy, there’s a shopping season ahead and several more on the horizon. Everyone’s getting ready for the festivities, but unfortunately that includes scammers, phishers, identity thieves, and other assorted internet criminals.

Much of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping will likely be done online, and many of the sales stretch over weeks, so let’s look at some tips to stay safe.

1. If it seems too good to be true then it probably is

Sometimes our excitement at finding something extraordinarily cheap, blinds us from the truth. If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. For example, we found this website promoted on social media that claims to sell unclaimed Amazon parcels for unbelievable prices.

unclaimed Amazon parcels for sale

Too good to be true

So why shouldn’t we believe them? Despite the fact that the online store shows social media icons, the icons do not take you to this store’s social media pages. The post I followed on Facebook was a sponsored one from a different account. On the website you will find neither a valid email address nor a phone number. All put together, customers have absolutely no means to reach out to this store with questions or complaints. These are all red flags and it is prudent to look at them, especially when the offer is too good to be true.

2. Block and block again

To make your online shopping more pleasant use an ad-blocker, and for the best experience combine it with a popup-blocker. Some advertisers can make it very hard to differentiate between the offers you were looking for and the ones they want you to look at. Blocking them decreases the risk of buying a pig in a poke.

3. Beware of phishing

A lot of phishers will use times like these to go about their malicious business. Should you receive a link in an email, don’t simply click on it—make sure the mail has actually come from the alleged sender, even if you know the “sender” and have done business with them before. If anything feels weird to you, don’t enter in your details and check with the shop directly.

4. Careful when following links

Whether it’s a link in an email or on social media, always treat links with a healthy amount of suspicion. It’s better to go to the website of the shop directly. Even though that still offers the possibility of being tricked by typo-squatters or hijacked Google results, those chances are a lot smaller than that of a malicious link. Also, make sure the link includes https at the beginning of the URL, so you know your data is encrypted whilst browsing or purchasing, although that does not automatically mean the site is safe or legitimate.

5. Protect yourself from fraud

Where possible, use a payment method that offers you fraud protection. US federal law limits your liability for fraudulent purchases on a credit card to just $50. But some credit card companies go the extra mile and won’t hold you liable for any unauthorized purchases at all. The law also protects you if your credit card number is stolen as long as you still have your physical card. When in doubt, you can request transaction alerts—such as a text or push notification—every time the card is used, so you can be sure every purchase is one made by you.

Many credit cards also offer purchase protection, which allows consumers to file a claim with their issuer to receive replacement, repair or reimbursement for any eligible stolen or damaged items.

6. Don’t give out too much intel

During online shopping, don’t provide your personal information if you don’t need to. Shopping somewhere that you don’t see yourself frequenting regularly? Why provide them with details they don’t need. A shipping address to send the items to and an email address to keep you updated about the progress is about all a shop really needs. It’s not about not trusting the shop. Data breaches happen every day and what you haven’t provided, they can’t leak.

If you have to create an account, make sure you use a unique username and password combination. That way, if the site does get breached, your passwords for all your other accounts will remain safe.

7. Protect your device

Buying gifts online shouldn’t be so much of a hassle. So, make your shopping experience just that little bit easier by making sure your device is protected.

Malwarebytes Browser Guard can block third-party ads and other unwanted content, including web pages that contain malware, and in-browser cryptojackers (unwanted cryptocurrency miners).

And an updated anti-malware solution on the device you use for your shopping can block malware from spying on your payments or performing other malicious activities.

We don’t just report on threats—we remove them

Cybersecurity risks should never spread beyond a headline. Keep threats off your devices by downloading Malwarebytes today.


Pieter Arntz

Malware Intelligence Researcher

Was a Microsoft MVP in consumer security for 12 years running. Can speak four languages. Smells of rich mahogany and leather-bound books.