Tips for Safe Online Shopping

It’s that time of year again. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and what’s expected to be one of the busiest online shopping seasons ever. So to get everyone off on the right foot, here are 10 tips to help you shop safe online.

  1. Never click on links in emails. If you want to shop at a site, enter that site address in your browser. There are thousands of fake sites that look almost identical to the real thing. Don’t fall for evil-twin shopping sites.
  2. Don’t open attachments with special offers. It’s a classic scam. The offer should be in the email and you should be able to see it right away.
  3. Watch for malicious ads and popups. Do not click on ads that sound too good to be true, and ignore popups that might propose the “best deal ever”.
  4. Beware of e-skimmers. This is a new one. Do you know that bad guys sometimes skim your credit card at gas stations or ATMs? Well, there is a new flavor of that, the shopping website you order from might be infected with a “e-skimmer” and they steal your card data when you check out. You can prevent that by using PayPal or Amazon.
  5. Use a credit card to buy stuff online if possible. NEVER use a debit card to make online purchases but use that debit card to take out cash only.
  6. Do not shop over a public Wi-Fi. You simply do not know if it’s secure and who is listening. Only shop using a secure, trusted network. If you have no other way to shop, use a VPN which encrypts your traffic.
  7. Be very careful when you see a free offer during the holidays. There is an explosion of all kinds of survey fraud and gift card scams.
  8. Do not re-use any of your passwords. Instead, use a password manager to create hard-to-break passwords. Re-using any password is literally an invitation to get hacked.
  9. Keep a close eye on your credit card and bank accounts. During this season, unexpected and strange charges might appear which could very well be the first sign your card or even your whole identity has been stolen. If you think you might have been scammed, stay calm and call your credit card company, nix that card and get a new one.
  10. Be especially suspicious of gift card scams. They can be a perfect holiday gift, but gift card scams are skyrocketing. Only buy gift cards from trusted sources.

Everyone have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving holiday!

Black Friday Scam Alert!

It’s the Holiday Season for the bad guys too! But not the way you might think. They go into scam-overdrive mode. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the busiest on-line shopping days and they are out to get rich with your money. So what to look out for?

  1. At the moment, there are too-good-to-be-true coupons that offer free phones or tablets on sites all over the Internet. Don’t fall for it. Make sure the offers are from a legitimate company.
  2. Watch out for alerts via email or text that you just received a package from FedEx, UPS or the US Mail, and then asks you for some personal information. Don’t enter anything. Think Before You Click!
  3. There is a fake refund scam going on that could come from Amazon, a hotel, or a retail chain. It claims there was a “wrong transaction” and wants you to “click for refund” but instead, your device will be infected with malware.

So, especially now, the price of freedom is constant alertness and willingness to fight back. Remember to only use credit cards online, never debit cards. Be super-wary of bulk email with crazy good BUY NOW offers and anything that looks slightly “off”.

If you think you might have been scammed, stay calm and call your credit card company, nix that card and get a new one. Happy Thanksgiving!

Home Depot Security Breach – What to Know & Do

Home Depot recently announced that info from thousands of customer’s credit cards had been stolen from its systems. It appears that the breach was carried out by the same group that hit Target earlier this year. If you’ve shopped at Home Depot in the U.S. or Canada anytime from April of this year onward and used a credit or debit card for payment, you are likely affected. Here’s what you need to do.

Home Depot has been very upfront about the problem and is offering free identity protection services to its customers for a full year through AllClear ID. You can read the official Home Depot statement here, and sign up for the free identity protection services at

What else? Watch your card statements closely. If you haven’t done so already, sign up with your card provider’s online service so you can check charges before your paper statement comes in the mail.

Also, watch out for calls or emails claiming to offer some type of identity theft protection but are actually phishing schemes to try and get even more personal information from you.



Amazon Starts Collecting Mass. Sales Tax

In case you might not have noticed, Amazon started collecting Massachusetts 6.25% sales tax as of this morning.

Amazon reached the deal with Mass DOR officials last year. Long sought by the state due to their insatiable appetite for tax receipts and also by brick-and-mortar stores that claim it will ‘level the playing field,’ the state projects it will bring in about $36 million in ¬†additional revenues before the fiscal year’s end on June 30.

While many local merchants are expecting a sales jump this holiday season because of the leveling, I’m not so sure. My expectation is that Amazon will simply lose business as consumers move their shopping to lower cost alternatives. The big winner will again probably be the state of New Hampshire that has no sales tax and is only a short drive away for many in Massachusetts.

I’ll be interested to hear your opinion – will the added 6.25% cause you to purchase less from Amazon or will it not matter?