Photo by Laura Marques on Unsplash

On Black Friday, cybercriminals too are fully aware of the excitement around the massive deals and specials, and ready to take advantage.

Business Insider South Africa asked Marius Coetzee (CEO of identity management and biometrics company Ideco), Cybersecurity experts from Maxtec, and Garnet Jensen, TransUnion Director, for a tips on how to stay safe while shopping online on Black Friday 2018. These were their top suggestions on how to avoid scams, criminals, and fraud online.

Shop safely by checking URLs

Whenever you visit a site with the intent of purchasing something, be sure to check out the website's URL, Maxtec says. Safe sites have addresses that start with "https" and show a little padlock icon next to it. This means that the site encrypts your data, so it cannot be intercepted by any covert third parties.

Don't do business with websites that lack the padlock and have addresses that just start "http". 

Beware of calls, SMSs, and emails bearing gifts

If a caller, email, or SMS offers financial reward or requests personal or banking information, just delete it. And never, ever click on a link when you are not absolutely certain it's secure and legitimate.

Rethink your passwords 

What you need are strong, unique passwords for each of your key accounts. Or alternatively use a mnemonic - think up a sentence, such as "My favourite colour is green," and use the first or last letter of each word as your password ("Mfcig").

You should not reuse your passwords, ever. Corporate hacks are becoming scarily frequent, and a purposeful hacker could very well use your leaked data to log onto more than one of your accounts if you use the same password.

Consider using a password manager.

See also: The most common mistakes people make when choosing passwords, according to research

Never conduct confidential business via public wifi

Public hotspots are often not properly secured. Rather play it safe and stick to doing any financial transactions from the safety of your home network.

Be careful of fake websites 

One of the ways in which online criminals gain access to your personal information is by setting up copies of legitimate websites. These sites frequently feature misspelled company names and badly written content. If a site seems even slightly dodgy in this way, get out of there as fast as you can.

See also: No, the department of labour does not have a list of people eligible for R33,000 payouts

Sign up for credit alerts and check your credit report.

One of the first places identity theft shows up is on your credit report. It is important to regularly check your credit report for changes that could signal trouble.

Limit your limits 

An additional precaution you could take is to have smaller limits on your credit cards, so if the worst should happen the culprits won’t have access to the bulk of your funds – and giving you some leeway while you work with your bank to reverse the other charges.

Choose multi-factor authentication, or 3D Secure, whenever you can.

It may be a little bit of drag to go through a multi-step process when you need to do an online transaction, but multi-factor authentication (e.g. an online password and PIN sent to your cellphone) is a wonderful safeguard against hacking. Most South African banks use this technology and it has proven very effective, says Maxtec.

MasterCard brands their system as 'MasterCard SecureCode' and Visa call theirs 'Verified by Visa'. 

3D secure protects a buyer's credit card against unauthorised use when shopping online. This simple service enables buyers to validate transactions you make over the internet by requesting a personal code (usually sent to your cell phone or email address as a one time PIN).

Here's how to set up 3D Secure. Source: Incredible Connection

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