How To

Don’t gift your credit card number to a scammer this holiday season

Disclosure: Our team is always looking for things we think our readers will value. We have received compensation for publishing this article.

So far, 2019 has smashed records for online shopping as people embrace the ease and relative security of making purchases electronically. Unfortunately, this also means that scammers such as phishers are also out there in record numbers trying to score a gift of their own: your credit card number. Here’s how to keep your data private and stop them in their tracks.

Know your phish

Phishing, which is the term for when someone uses fraudulent methods to gain access to your personal data, generally originates from an email – perhaps even from an organization that you already do business with. But here’s the catch. Phishing emails need to get you to a website where you will be asked to fill in personal information – something reputable organizations simply don’t do. So if you receive such an email, beware.

During the holidays you might even receive an email asking you to confirm your order details, which seems like a logical request. But even if you follow the link asking for this information and the website you arrive at looks like you’d expect, be extra cautious if you’ve already provided your shipping address and credit card information to an online retailer. If you’ve done it once, you don’t need to do it again.

Remove the disguise

One easy-to-find telltale sign of a phishing scam has to do with the link you’re being asked to follow. It’s very easy for scammers to create a link that seems legitimate, but that actually masks its real destination. Let’s say you see a link that reads “paypal.com” in an email. It looks legitimate, and that is indeed a correct web address for the company. To see where the link really leads however, simply hover your mouse over it. The true address will pop up in a small box. If it’s not what you expect, DON’T CLICK!

Protect yourself

Lastly, no one should be online these days without some kind of antivirus software securing your private details. Avast Antivirus Free has consistently been one of our top picks because it offers protection rarely seen in a free package. Avast Antivirus comes loaded with technology that will not only scan your email for dangerous attachments, but it will warn you that a site is unsafe if you’ve unwittingly clicked a link in a phishing email so that you can steer clear.

Additionally, Avast beefed up its anti-phishing efforts recently by incorporating robust artificial intelligence (AI) coding into the software. This cutting-edge technology not only compares links to known phishing sites, but it goes much deeper.

By using computer vision to analyze the composition of a site and determining if a site might be stealing images from another, phishing scams are more readily uncovered. Plus, the AI also investigates sites based on their ranking in search engines. Because phishing sites are not usually online long enough to be indexed by search engines, finding out a page’s ranking adds to the information gathered, allowing the software to warn you – with extreme accuracy – when a site is to be avoided.

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