Let’s face it, America is still a Christian nation that loves the holiday season. This time of year, family and friends, many of whom have had a hard time getting together during the Biden era because of, among other things, the COVID-19 pandemic and out of control gas prices, may finally be gathering together this year to celebrate and catch up while the aroma of turkey and stuffing fill the air.
Between now and the end of the year, it is not out of the ordinary to receive a visit from friends or relatives carrying gifts, many of which were probably purchased online. With online retail giants like Amazon, Walmart, and Apple, growing their respective market shares on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, e-commerce now represents a staggering 21% of global retail sales as of 2022, with 2.14 billion people shopping online in 2020, and e-commerce sales reaching $4.9 trillion in 2021.
Although online purchases may offer consumers a substantial savings by reducing the number of fill-ups needed at the pump, there are some very serious drawbacks to limiting your holiday shopping to the web.
One newer danger is the new wave of cybercriminals that have taken to publishing shopping sites that look identical to many of the more popular online retailers that consumers frequent to purchase goods. These sites are often difficult to differentiate from the genuine article, but one way of identifying them is to look for a misspelling in the name of the website, so look carefully at the URLs you are visiting while shopping online.
You can also check whether a website is legitimate is by viewing how long the domain has been registered by entering it on whois.icann.org and typing in the URL. Most scam sites that bilk consumers out of millions of dollars every year tend to be new and generally only stay active through the holiday season.
You should also keep in mind that public Wi-Fi connections are often the target of cybercriminals who can very easily infiltrate the signal collect your payment information when making a rushed online purchase.
Another drawback to online shopping is the fact that Big-Tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Facebook enable the various ad networks that fuel their profitability to engage in misleading behaviors. These behaviors include displaying advertisements in ways that are indistinguishable from a website’s actual content. These ads can trick web surfers into clicking on them. For older internet shoppers, many of whom may live on a fixed income, these ads can lead to unwanted downloads and purchases.
Unsolicited texts and emails offering products and services may also be a wolf in sheep’s clothing this holiday. Although most of the solicitations you receive may be benign, in many cases, these offers could be part of a phishing scheme. Once lured into the trap, you may unwittingly wind up exposing your online payment data to cybercriminals who can quickly run up charges on your credit card account.
Ads that automatically display in new tabs or windows that may randomly be popping up on a web user’s screen are probably the most commonly reported danger that online holiday shoppers will face this season. This kind of behavior is consistent with annoying apps that are referred to as adware. Adware is notorious for spamming customers with unsolicited advertisements and are many times associated with less than reputable websites.
Online shopping is does not have to be dangerous if you remain vigilant and aware of the dangers that exist in the cybersphere. By keeping aware at all times of some basic rules of engagement, you can enjoy a holiday shopping season free of the headaches associated with being a victim of internet fraud.
Julio Rivera is a business and political strategist, President of JMI Strategies and JMI Strategies Global, Editorial Director for Reactionary Times, and a political commentator and columnist. His writing, which is focused on cybersecurity and politics, has been published by many of the most heavily trafficked websites in the world.Tags: Commentary