How to protect yourself, your finances from scams while doing your holiday shopping

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Friday, December 17, 2021
How to protect yourself from scams while holiday shopping
Scams targeting shoppers are rampant during the holidays. Here's how to protect yourself.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Security experts say holiday scams are hitting consumers hard right now. Here's what to watch out for after you open up those presents and what to beware of while you are shopping.

Warning 1: Criminals may be zeroing in on Wi-Fi connections as you shop

"Preying on shoppers who are shopping on public Wi-Fi connections. There's a very easy technique for bad actors to be a man in the middle is the technique that it's called where once they're able to essentially tap into your connection from a public Wi-Fi space can track every piece of information everywhere that you go and begin collecting that that info," warned David Nuti from Nord Security.

He said you should make sure you're always on a secure Wi-FI connection that requires authentication or a password. Experts say you can also get what's known as a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, on your phone and devices, to fight hacks. You can also just shop using your phone's data.

And whether you're at home or shopping on the go, be vigilant about the website themselves.

"Double check the sites that you're visiting," Nuti said. "When you're looking at a website address. Make sure it's https. At the end, that 'S' is 'secure,' so that you have some basic encryption that exists there. If it doesn't have the 'S' on the address, turn around and run."

RELATED: Fake websites target online holiday shoppers seeking Black Friday, Cyber Monday deals

Warning 2: Beware of fake shopping-related emails and texts

Some claim to help you with tracking shipments.

"Phishing emails that look official from a website, perhaps an email telling you that your shipments are being held up, and they just need $1.99 from you to release them," advised Nuti.

Also watch out for messages saying you have a free gift card. That too could be a phishing link trying to fool you into giving up personal information or install malware on your device.

Warning 3: All of those devices you're getting which connect to your home's Wi-Fi could be hacked

"A lot of today's smart appliances, smart toys, cool stuff, from drones, anything. Have a computer inside them. And most people don't think of that smart doll. Or drone or smart coffeepot as a computer it is one and we think about computers we think about keeping them safe," warned Chris Rouland, founder and CEO of Phosphorus Cybersecurity.

Those devices are connected to your home's Wi-Fi and can be a gateway into your desktop, laptop and valuable information in your hard drive.

Everything you have at home that has Wi-Fi makes you vulnerable to hackers who want to get into your computer. After a scammer gets in they can use the info to rack up charges or hold the device hostage and demand payment from you.

So how do you keep these smart gifts safe?

First, you should make sure your Wi-Fi has a secure strong password. Then, change all of the default passwords on Wi-Fi enabled products.

"Just change your passwords on everything you buy. Also change the password on your own router. No one does this. This is the number one thing you can do to improve your security. I'll make a lot of hackers mad by telling you that one trick change the password on the router," advised Rouland.

To change the password on your router, which is different from your Wi-Fi password, look on the back of the router for instructions or call your internet provider.

The I -Team has been warning you all holiday season about fake websites, some which can also be found through social media. These websites may take your money and never deliver a product. Make sure you shop on a trusted website and use a credit card in case you have to dispute a charge.