Tips for staying ‘cyber safe’ this festive season and beyond.

Christmas shopping online can be a great opportunity to find some bargains – but it’s also an opportunity for fraudsters.

Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, many people will be doing the bulk of their festive spend online this year, and criminals will see this as a chance to strike.

Simon Keates, cloud services and payment expert at cybersecurity specialists Thales says: “Hackers have always taken advantage of spikes in the shopping calendar to launch cyberattacks.”

He adds: “While retailers themselves have a duty to protect their customers, this year, with increasing numbers turning to festive shopping online, it’s more important than ever that consumers also understand the risks and know how to protect themselves.”

Here are Thales’s tips for staying “cyber safe” this Christmas and beyond:

1. If a price looks too good to be true, it very well might be. Make sure you’re not pulled in by any suspiciously good deals, and always do your research on a store before purchasing.

2. Use websites you’ve heard of, or those who have lots of positive reviews on a range of websites – and be alert to dubious websites which have self-written reviews.

3. Never use the same password for all of your accounts. Consider using software that generates one-time unique passwords, so every time you log in a random password is created for you.

4. Where possible, activate the two-factor authentication services that some websites offer. It means access to your account is only granted after you’ve successfully provided two pieces of evidence to verify who you are. It provides an extra layer of security that ensures only you can access your accounts.

5. Remember that computers or mobile devices can contract a virus or malware at other points of you being on a website or app, as well as when you’re paying. Be cautious and use devices which have strong security.

6. Use a trusted VPN (virtual private network) when using free Wi-Fi in public spaces.

7. Received an unexpected message? Don’t click on any links sent via email or text.

And with the online tax self-assessment deadline also approaching on January 31 2021, there are also other online scams to watch out for.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is warning people to watch out for fake messages from criminals posing as tax officials.

They may claim you’re in line for a “tax rebate”, or that you have a bogus tax bill to pay.

All in all, be cynical about what you see online and follow the advice of the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign and pause to think about whether tempting offers are really legitimate.