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Black Friday: How to protect your personal details while online shopping

Fake product reviews are on the rise - here's how to spot a fake.

Fake product reviews are on the rise - here's how to spot a fake. Photo: TND/Getty

Shoppers are planning to bag a bargain in the upcoming festive season – but it’s buyer beware, as not everyone in the market is sharing the Christmas spirit.

Finder research shows one-in-three Australians will shop on November 25 for the deal-day dubbed Black Friday and at the Boxing Day sales. With 9.3 million households having shopped online in the year to June, it’s highly likely a lot of this sale-hunting will be done online.

It is feared that hackers are also making plans for those sales days.

A combination of the rising amount of hackers using sophisticated techniques, companies asking for more identification details, and people’s false sense of security when shopping online means we’re going to see more data breaches, University of Wollongong School of Business honorary professor Katina Michael told The New Daily.

“We’re all so used to the online economy … we’re all becoming a bit lax in our own dealings with these companies,” she said.

“We trust them because we haven’t been … a victim of cybercrime in the past … but now that these huge numbers of credentials have gone missing [such as the millions in the Optus attack] the stakes are high.”

So, how can you keep yourself [and your bank account] safe when online shopping?

Use credit cards for online shopping

Avoid using your personal debit cards in case your details get hacked, Dr Michael said.

“If that credit card number goes missing, you can be remunerated for stolen cards, and stolen numbers,” she said.

Never pay for online shopping using a direct bank transfer, Finder shopping expert Chris Jager said, with cards giving you the biggest chance of getting your money back if something goes wrong with your transaction.

Avoid mailing lists

Retailers are always seeking ways to get new customers, and retain them. That’s why many offer one-off discounts if shoppers create an account on their site and sign up to their mailing list, which not only hooks shoppers in for one purchase, but leaves them open to seeing all the new products and sales to come.

But signing up to these mailing lists can leave you open to scams, Dr Michael said.

“You’re receiving email updates or promotional offers, and you can’t distinguish between phishing attacks, those that are fake emails from an organisation, and those that are real emails from an organisation,” she said.

She said while having an account with a retailer could make future checkouts more fuss-free as your details are saved, this could also discourage shoppers from looking around for better deals.

Don’t tell online shopping sites everything

While you might be asked to provide email address or a contact number for shipping updates or in case something goes wrong with your online order, don’t provide every detail asked of you if it’s not necessary.

“If the data box has an asterisk, it means it’s a mandatory field. And if it doesn’t, don’t fill it out,” Dr Michael said.

Make passwords long and secure

Dr Michael recommends making passwords long and convoluted, with at least 10 characters, random capitalisations, and a mix of symbols – and use different password for each site.

“If a hacker can access your email password, then they’ll use the same password to try and get through other accounts,” she said.

If you can’t rely on your memory for all those passwords, then Dr Michael said online or device password managers can usually be trusted to store the essential information.

Check your bank statements

Mr Jager said you should keep an eye out for fraud by regularly monitoring your financial records to catch issues early on.

“It’s a good idea to regularly check your banking transactions and monitor your credit score for any unusual or incorrect debts.”

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