Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping events of the year and it’s happening this week just in time for the holiday season. While this shopping event is synonymous with America, it’s gaining a lot of traction with Canadian retailers and shoppers. According to Retail Council of Canada’s second annual Holiday Shopping Survey, 43 per cent of Canadian consumers plan to shop on Black Friday this year.

Unfortunately, this is also a time where hackers strike the most. According to research from credit reporting company Experian, 43 per cent of identity theft happens while consumers shop online during the holidays. If that’s not alarming enough, researchers have found more than 100,000 malicious domains imitating large global retailers. Finding a good deal is exciting but it’s not worth putting your personal information at risk. Here are five tips for a safe online shopping experience.

black friday safe online shopping tips

Source: Retail Council of Canada

1. Don’t online shop in public

Avoid browsing online while you’re out in public because you may be tempted to make a purchase while connected to unsecured public WiFi. Not only are hackers able to snoop on your activity while you’re connected but threats like shoulder surfing or forgetting to log out of a shared computer can also put you at risk. Always use a VPN when connecting to public WiFi. VPNs provide an encrypted tunnel that will help protect your data. The best solution is to do your online shopping away from prying eyes and with a secure private connection at home.  

2. Be vigilant

Cyber criminals know that most people will be shopping and hunting for deals around this time. Beware of phishing emails claiming to be from PayPal or big retailers like Amazon asking you to update billing or account information. Always check the sender email address to determine if it is a legitimate email. Similarly, be wary of ads advertising amazing deals as these might be malicious. Bookmark websites before you shop or type the website in the browser to avoid clicking on malicious links. Always inspect the URL carefully.

3. Do Research

Ensure you only purchase items through reputable retailers by doing your research beforehand. If a deal seems too good to be true, compare prices from other merchandisers. If it’s not on par with what other retailers are offering, it may be too good to be true. If you come across an unfamiliar retailer, check if they have a social media following or contact page/company address. An established brand should have a decent online presence so be sure to check their social media engagement too. For maximum safety, it’s best to only shop at retailers you know and trust. However, a simple online search or looking the unfamiliar retailer up on the Better Business Bureau for complaints can help determine if they are real or not. If you can’t find much information on the retailer, it’s best to avoid them.

4. Use credit cards or gift cards

Stolen debit card information can cause great financial damage to your finances because debit cards are directly linked to your chequing account. Debit cards also don’t always have the same kinds of purchase protection as credit cards which can make it harder for you to recover your money if it falls into the wrong hands. Consider using your credit card instead. If you are hesitant to provide your credit information online, you can use a merchant or visa gift card.

5. Report suspicious activity right away

Monitor your credit card statements and bank account activity regularly to detect suspicious activity as soon as possible. Sometimes banks may be able to catch fraudulent activity but it’s always better to keep an eye on your transactions. If you notice anything suspicious, report it right away so that they can take action as soon as possible.