HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s no secret online shopping has skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Even the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development is encouraging Pennsylvanians to shop virtual and curbside this holiday season.
There are some things you must remember to do so safely.
“Cybersecurity in general is about four times more prevalent than it was before COVID,” said John Sancenito, the president of Information Network Associates, which is a security, consulting and investigating agency in Harrisburg. “We’re doing things that we would not normally be doing. We’re taking advantage of the online sales and the cyber criminals are taking advantage of that.”
Sancenito says make sure you’re familiar with stores you’re buying gifts from online.
“If you’re buying from a store you never heard of, you should pause,” said Sancenito. “Maybe go take a look online. See if other people are talking about this as being a legitimate or illegitimate source.”
Some of those illegitimate sources may just be looking for your credit card information.
Sancenito says buying through sites that vet their sellers, like Amazon, does give you an extra layer of protection.
“It also gives you another recourse to potentially get your money back from those retailers,” said Sancenito.
Cybersecurity experts say if you have the choice to buy via credit or debit, pick credit.
Typically, if you pay by debit card, they have more access to your bank account information and also, there’s a less lengthy timeframe to which you can actively report fraud,” said Sancenito.
As you’re surfing the internet, beware of emails and even text messages with links bringing you to suspicious sites. Those may download malware onto your devices.
Sancenito says a newer, common ransomware attack involves what’s called doxing. That’s when criminals go after your personal information and request multiple payments for you to get it back and for them to not release it to the public.
“It can be embarassing emails or even just personal emails, contact information, other things about yourself, text messages,” said Sancenito.
There are also steps you need to take when shopping in-person during the holiday season, which Sancenito describes in this video: