• Mark Ledgerwood

Seasons Thievings: 6 tips on staying safe online during the silly season

When it comes to the silly season, few things are more prudent than trying to manage all of your Christmas shopping and getting it done in a time-efficient manner. In the fast-past world that we live in today, efficiency and convenience are at the top of most people’s minds.


These days, there seems to be little point in patrolling the mall for hours on end to find the perfect gift in a relatively limited catalogue, especially when in contrast with the sheer amount of options available to you via online shopping.

There have already been two major sales opportunities over the past month with Black Friday and Cyber Monday becoming bigger year after year, and there is still a vast catalogue of holidays such as Boxing Day and New Year’s sales on the horizon.

With the threat of COVID-19 still lingering, more people have been driven to do their holiday shopping online, however, shoppers should exercise extreme caution when doing so and be on the lookout for potential scams. These holidays make an easy target for cybercriminals and there is an expectation that their activity for direct digital cash flow will be on the rise, according to Avast.

A report by Netsafe earlier this month revealed that kiwis have reported a loss of over $3 million from online scams around products and services from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020, and this is before the busiest shopping season of the year.

The difficulty is that cybercriminals can be found anywhere you turn. From fake mobile shopping apps and faux websites posing as renowned brands to emails or texts pretending to be your packages shipping info hosting malicious links.

One of the biggest scams to be aware of this shopping season are phishing attacks.

CERT NZ’s Quarter Three Report found that there were 1,064 reports of phishing and credential harvesting from 1 July to 30 September 2020 in New Zealand, with Avast expecting this wave of phishing to continue over Christmas with online shoppers in their sights.

Australia Post and the Te Tari Taiwhenua Department of Internal Affairs have both recently warned Australians and New Zealanders to be aware of scam messages about unpaid “customs charges” for a package delivery coming from an Australian mobile, and Avast expects that these types of scams will continue following Black Friday and Cyber Monday and leading up to the end of the year with scammers likely to try and take advantage of shoppers who are expecting package deliveries.

Luis Corrons, Security Evangelist at Avast, shared his six tips to help both Aussies and Kiwis stay safe when completing their online shopping in an article by bizedge.co.nz., and we wholeheartedly agree.

  • Watch out for fakes and always go ‘official’ – This is important for both apps and websites. For apps, only download apps from official app stores. When it comes to websites, always type the URL into the address bar so you know you are on the official page. Note that almost all official sites will use ‘HTTPS’ to ensure an encrypted connection between the retailer and consumer.

  • Avoid phishing scams – Look at every deal-themed email in your inbox with a suspicious eye, and never click on links inside them as they could lead to an email phishing scam. Instead, if you see something in an email that is enticing, follow tip 1 and type the URL into a web browser yourself.

  • Do not store payment info – As you visit site after site, and as you complete purchase after purchase, you will be peppered with requests to start new accounts and save your credit card info. We strongly suggest you deny these requests, particularly during holiday shopping. You want to share, save, and store as little personal info as possible on the internet.

  • Put a layer between your credit card and scammers – Third-party payment services such as PayPal, Apple Pay and Google Pay can give you an extra layer of protection if you want the best assurance. These virtual payment services can also be very handy on mobile sites. However, remember to only shop from your home or cell network, never on public Wi-Fi so you can protect your sensitive information, like passwords, from being stolen.

  • Stay anonymous – When you use a VPN, you cruise the cyber highway in a rental car with tinted windows. It’s an encrypted connection that hides your IP address and keeps predators from seeing any personal data about you, which prevents them from profiling you. Your login credentials, your banking details, and your identity stay protected. But make sure you select your preferred country in the VPN application, so the website displays the currency you want to use.

  • Compare prices – Before you hit the digital checkout line, open a new tab and look up that same item in other stores to see if the price is similar. If you haven’t heard of the brand before, look up comparable products by leading brands to see if the prices are similar. If your item is drastically lower than the others, you need to wonder why. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.


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