Ready for the holiday shopping season? Here's our guide to easy (and safe) online shopping

Nancy Nunziati, 11 Oct 2019
Nancy Nunziati, 11 Oct 2019

Protect your privacy and financial information with these online shopping tips and Avast Secure Browser

The holiday shopping season really gets under way when Black Friday deals begin – which now happens earlier and earlier during the week of Thanksgiving. The deals typically extend through Cyber Monday, which this year is November 30. Look out, holiday shoppers. A rambunctious stretch lies ahead. 

Instead of rushing to the malls like we used to do, shoppers today rush to their screens, jumping into the online shopping frenzy. The only buzzkill to this holly-jolly good time is that bad actors of all types — from greedy advertisers to flat-out cybercriminals — anticipate this spike in online activity and hatch their own phishing scams and deceptive schemes to direct the digital cash flow their way. Treacherous imposters are everywhere you turn, from fake mobile apps and phony websites posing as real businesses to malicious emails pretending to be your package’s shipping info or a holiday card from a friend. And especially now, there are more scams than ever.

But you can avoid all the havoc and hassle with these tips for a safer, saner online shopping experience.

Tip #1: Always go ‘official’

This is the most obvious tip, in light of all the fakes that abound. For apps: Only download apps from official app stores. And, for websites: Always type the URL yourself in the address bar so you know you are on the official page. You’ll also notice that most, if not all, official sites use https to ensure an encrypted connection between you and them.

Tip #2: Avoid phishing scams

Look at every holiday-themed and savings-themed email in your inbox with a suspicious eye, and never click on links inside them as they could link to an email phishing scam. Instead, if you see something in an email that is enticing, follow tip #1 and type the URL into a web browser yourself.

You can also make use of Avast Secure Browser’s superior anti-phishing protection while you browse the web on your desktop or laptop. Our built-in anti-phishing technology keeps you safe by checking every site you visit against a comprehensive list of unsafe sites and blocking those dangerous websites from installing harmful software on your computer or stealing your data.

Tip #3: Compare prices

Before you hit the digital checkout line, open a new tab and look up that same item in other stores to see if the price is similar. If you haven’t heard of the brand before, look up comparable products by leading brands to see if the prices are similar. If your item is drastically lower than the others, you need to wonder why. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Plus, you can always check review sites to see if the brand is decent.

Tip #4: Stay anonymous – use a VPN

When you use a VPN, you cruise the cyber highway in a rental car with tinted windows. It’s an encrypted connection that hides your IP address and keeps holiday predators from seeing any personal data about you, which prevents them from profiling you. Your login credentials, your banking details, and your identity stay protected. But make sure you select your preferred country in the VPN application, so the website displays the currency you want to use. On the Android and iOS versions of Avast Secure Browser, you get a free VPN with the fastest server, which ensures that you stay anonymous and secure.  

Tip #5: Cut out the clutter and hassle with an ad blocker

The above tips are for your protection, and this one is for your sanity. Certain security tools can eliminate the more stressful and tedious aspects of holiday shopping. Using an adblocker will save you the extended loading time and the headache of being constantly inundated with ads, most reminding you of previous products you’ve viewed. You’ll be more focused, your pages will load faster, and you might even find yourself humming “Joy to the World,” so full of good cheer you’ll be.

Tip #6: Do not store payment info

As you visit site after site, and especially as you make purchase after purchase, you will be peppered with requests to start new accounts and save your credit card info. We strongly suggest you deny these requests, particularly during holiday shopping. You want to share, save, and store as little personal info as possible on the internet.

Tip #7: Limit thyself

Use a credit card with a credit limit. That way, if your payment details are compromised, the damage will be as limited as the card is. Better yet, use a card you’ve earmarked for holiday shopping only. A quick look at the card’s statement will show you if anything’s amiss.

Avast Secure Browser makes it easy

Avast’s cybersecurity experts built an advanced  privacy-protecting web browser for their own personal use, and then released it for free. Avast Secure Browser is packed with useful, state of the art tools and services, and covers most of the tips mentioned above.

Among its features are:

  • Adblock, removing malware ads and substantially increasing browser speed
  • Anti-phishing security, an added layer of protection against phishing scams
  • Anti-tracking security, preventing data brokers from tracking and selling your personal data
  • Anti-fingerprinting security, making it more difficult for websites to track you based on your unique browser fingerprint
  • Webcam Guard, preventing rogue sites from accessing your webcam and microphone without permission

Avast Secure Browser includes also Bank Mode, a feature that protects your bank and brokerage accounts by creating an isolated desktop session for all payment, brokerage, or banking transactions. This added layer of protection prevents hackers and other cybercriminals from obtaining your personal information and infiltrating your accounts, just remember you need Avast Antivirus installed alongside to use it.

Keep your holidays merry and bright by keeping your security robust and tight. Download Avast Secure Browser for free and you’ll be on your way in no time.