How to avoid getting scammed while holiday shopping online

With deals on Amazon and other retailers, scammers are looking to take advantage of shoppers who are searching for the best bargains.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – From email hacks and data breaches to kids toys that can spy on your family, there’s no shortage of things to keep an eye out for while getting your holiday shopping done online this year.

With lightning deals on Amazon and other retailers, scammers are looking to take advantage of shoppers who are searching for the best bargains. Chris Freedman, co-founder of the cyber security firm OnDefend, said it’s a very dangerous time to be a consumer.

“Covid has created two things: more people than ever are shopping from home on Black Friday, which lends itself to cyber fraud right?” Freedman said. “The second thing is there is a lot of financial hardship right now, which can lead to snap decisions on deals that are too good to be true.”

For starters, Freedman recommends shopping directly through a retailer’s website instead of clicking on any links that arrive in an email offering a deal. He said those who are scanning through their inboxes for deals can avoid clicking on phishing scams by hovering over the hyperlink to make sure it’s a legitimate link.

Besides that, Freedman acknowledged it is true that some cameras, digital devices and even toys could be spying on your family. He said these gadgets are routinely manufactured offshore and then manufacturers collect that data offshore as well.

The Mozilla Foundation, the nonprofit organization behind the popular Firefox browser, released its annual “privacy not included” gift guide. The annual guide breaks down the security and privacy concerns related to some of the hottest gifts this year.

Take, for instance, the Nintendo Switch gaming console. According to the report, Nintendo in 2020 had a data breach in which 300,000 users’ birthdays and email addresses were exposed. But it’s worth mentioning that the company does not share your data with third parties and overall does a good job with cyber security.

But while the device itself doesn’t necessarily carry a privacy risk, some of the games might. In Mario Kart: Home Circuit, the game uses a real-life car to play and that car drives all around your home, mapping it and snapping pictures. And right now, we don’t know where that information is going.

“If you’re worried about technology sending your information off to other countries, your best bet is to buy from manufactures in the states,” Freedman said. If not, he said, do your research and ask yourself whether you’re okay with your information being collected — and potentially compromised.