Consumers are Encouraged to Exercise Caution to Protect Themselves Against This Season’s Online Dangers
The New York State Office of Information Technology Services (ITS) reminds New Yorkers to be alert while making online purchases on Cyber Monday and during the entire holiday season.
Cyber Monday is the official kick-off to the online holiday shopping season and one of biggest online shopping days of the year. Although Cyber Monday is ideal for nabbing on-line bargains, it is also high season for scammers and identify thieves. Cybercriminals will take advantage of unsuspecting online shoppers to steal personal and financial information.
“The Internet plays an integral role in the way 21st century consumers purchase goods and services. However, this rise in online shopping brings increased risk of theft, fraud and abuse,” said Margaret Miller, New York State Chief Information Officer. “I encourage New Yorkers to exercise caution while shopping online this holiday season to safeguard their personal information and data from disclosure.”
“The New York State Division of Consumer Protection urges all New Yorkers to be vigilant and protect their private information as the holiday shopping season kicks off,” said New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous scammers out there who will exploit the sharing of information online during this festive time. Protecting your information, and your hard-earned money, begins with you.”
To maximize the chances of securing great online deals, while minimizing online shopping risks, consumers should engage in safe online behavior. This holiday season, and all year long, keep the following tips in mind when purchasing online:
- Shop only with merchants and websites you know and trust. Do not visit a site by clicking on a link sent in an email, found on someone’s blog, or in an advertisement. The website you land on may look like the real thing, but it might be a well-crafted fake.
- Make sure the site is secure. Look for “HTTPS” when making an online purchase. The “s” stands for “secure” and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted.
- Think twice before clicking on email links or pop-up advertisements. When you receive unsolicited email offers or pop-up ads that appear to be from legitimate stores, be very cautious. Aside from potentially containing a virus, these ads may be scams that steal your money or sell knock-off products.
- Secure your computer, mobile devices and your home Wi-Fi. Make sure that your operating system and antivirus software are up to date with the latest security patches and other updates. Check your home Wi-Fi to ensure users can only access your network with a strong password.
- Do not use public computers or public Wi-Fi for personal banking or online shopping. Public computers may be compromised with malicious software. Additionally, criminals can intercept traffic on public wireless networks to steal credit card numbers and other confidential information.
- Take precautions with the passwords you use for online accounts. Use different passwords for different online accounts, especially for those accounts tied to your financial information. Consider changing your passwords after the holiday shopping season ends.
- Be aware of phishing emails. Phishing emails are extremely common and appear to be from a viable organization, such as your bank. These emails contain links to malicious software or direct unsuspecting users to a website asking for personal information. Delete these emails immediately and never provide any personal information when solicited through email.
Please be aware that the New York State Division of Consumer Protection provides voluntary mediation between a consumer and a business when a consumer has been unsuccessful at reaching a resolution on their own. The Consumer Assistance Unit offers a toll-free consumer hotline Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. You can also file a consumer complaint at www.dos.ny.gov.
For more helpful tips on staying safe online throughout the holiday season or for additional online safety resources, including real-time advisories, daily tips and many user-friendly awareness materials, visit http://www.its.ny.gov/.