Cyber security expert's tips on safe online holiday shopping

It’s open season for holiday shopping, and it’s also open season for criminals.

New data shows that 91 percent of the people shopping this weekend will buy at least one thing online. Meanwhile, cyber criminals are shopping for our data.

“While everyone is out hunting for deals, they’re out hunting for your credit card numbers,” said Benjamin Brooks, a cyber security expert for Beryllium Infosec Collaborative.

He says the best way to protect yourself online is to buy from companies you know.

“Amazon and their known vetted vendors, eBay and their best five-star sellers, those are the ones you’d like to stick with. Target, Best Buy - all of those that are very reputable. They still have great deals. In fact, they still have some of the best deals out there,” Brooks said.

His second piece of advice: do not use your bank debit card to make online purchases.  Stick with your credit card.

“Visa and Mastercard have been at this for a long time and they are very sophisticated at methods […] and have measures in place to stop these guys early. So, if they do get your credit card number, it’s a lot easier to stop that fraudulent attack than it is for your bank to get on top of that,” he said.  

Paypal is a safe online payment method, but make sure the vendor sends you to the real Paypal site.

“The problem is, it’s very easy to spoof that website for Paypal or whatever service. The key to getting around that is to make sure that you check the actual address before you start entering any information into the website,” Brooks said.

Finally, if the online purchase doesn’t feel right, close out of it.

“Not everyone is out there to help you, so use your common sense. If you feel that little tingle in your gut and it just doesn’t feel right, don’t do it, just stop.”

Brooks said the key is about prevention. He says stick with the websites and companies you know, and use your credit card always on a secure website.