It’s back to school season, and parents are busy buying school supplies, clothes and tech products for their young ones. While online back to school shopping is breaking records every year, hackers and cybercriminals are looking for easy ways to benefit from it as well.

“More and more parents and teachers are doing back to school shopping online. It’s understandable, as online shopping is less stressful and likely cheaper. These days it is absolutely possible to get all you need for school without ever leaving your home,” said Daniel Markuson, NordVPN’s digital privacy expert. “But there’s bad news as well – online shopping frauds and identity theft are on the rise.”

While scammers, hackers, and other shady individuals are polishing new techniques, many online shoppers are still unaware of the basic online privacy rules. According to NordVPN’s Daniel Markuson, there are some simple steps that help avoid online fraud.

9 things you should know to avoid online fraud while shopping:

1. Look into the online store

You should ideally stick to websites you trust or have bought from before, as there are some online stores created by scammers who just want to get your credit card information. Otherwise, do the research: Do they interact on social media? Are there any customer reviews? Are there any spam complaints? Check their email, phone number or address – if you can’t find any of those, it might be a fake company.

2. Too good to be true? Scam!

Criminals use two main techniques to scam you during the back to school sales season: rock-bottom prices and email scams. If the deal seems too good to be true – it probably is. Extremely low rates, when compared to similar stores, may mean that the website exists only to get your personal information. Similarly, scammy email deals promise a too-good-to-be-true prices or freebies, but clicking on them could infect your computer or smartphone with viruses and malware.

3. URL should start with ‘https’

When making an online payment or entering any personal information, the first thing you should check is whether the webpage URL starts with ‘https’ rather than ‘http’. The tiny ‘s’ means that the connection is made through a secure protocol and your data is encrypted properly.

4. Don’t give too much personal data

Pay attention whenever a website requests for more information or permissions than is necessary. If you are asked to provide very personal details that seem unrelated or excessive, it usually signals a scam. You should always think twice before providing your personal or financial information anywhere on the Internet.

5. Stay away from public WiFi

It’s never a good idea to shop online while you are connected to a public WiFi network at a cafe, hotel, city park or any other public place. Public WiFi networks are common hunting grounds for hackers and data snoopers, who try to access your personal and financial information, such as credit card details.

6. Use a VPN to encrypt your traffic

Can’t resist doing your shopping while on public WiFi? Then you need a VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPN encrypts your Internet traffic and is the best security mechanism you can employ to make sure your browsing data remains safe from spying eyes. From the moment a user turns on a VPN, like NordVPN, their Internet data is encrypted. It becomes invisible to third-party snoopers or hackers and even NordVPN itself.

7. Always use strong passwords

The most popular password is… ‘password.’ People are so overwhelmed with how many accounts and passwords they need that they go the easy way. Don’t do that. You need to change your passwords regularly and use a combination of capital letters, numerals, letters, and punctuation. For example, if you live on Flower Road, you can use ‘fL0w3rR04d!’ for a password. Additionally, share some tips with your family members on how to create strong passwords.

8. Mind the details

Stay organized: keep all the receipts, order confirmation numbers and other documentation you got after an online purchase. Also, don’t forget to check your credit card statements regularly, at least once a week. If you see some unexpected activities – recall whether you really authorized the charge. Your bank or other credit card provider can help you solve the problem.

9. Catch the bad guys!

And finally, if you fell into the trap laid for you by some shady cyber criminal – be a good citizen and report the incident. It might not help you, but it will make the Internet a safer place for us all. First of all, notify your credit card company or bank and then – file a complaint to the state authorities.

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