The holiday season is almost here, and it’s time to get excited for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to statistics, the 2018 online shopping season is going to be the biggest yet. Online shoppers eagerly await this day to take advantage of huge discounts on their holiday shopping. But don’t forget that cybercriminals are also sharpening their skills. They’re primed to sneak onto your accounts and make their biggest hacks of the year. Therefore, safe online shopping should be a top priority when enjoying Cyber Monday sales.

The concept of Cyber Monday was introduced in 2005 to popularize online shopping. It’s gotten bigger and more mainstream with every passing year. It’s also been a huge payday for identity thieves and cybercriminals who take advantage of unsuspecting online shoppers. After all, tons of online users spending money via credit cards provide the perfect opportunity for theft.

Cyber Monday Online Scares

There are various ways cybercriminals can attack shoppers during Cyber Monday, but phishing is the most common. It also happens to be the most profitable. Phishing is a type of cybercrime where perpetrators try to obtain personal information such as credit card details from internet users. They do this via email or other electronic messaging, disguising themselves as a trustworthy business entity such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc. To avoid being easily detected, they usually mimic the logo, brand colors, or email design of these companies.

How it works

With phishing attempts, emails or messages usually tend to have some form of urgency that encourages the receiver to take action. Once you click on the call-to-action, they lead you to bogus sites that have keylogging capabilities. This programming steals your email username, passwords, or your credit card details. These emails can also have attachments that contain malware which can steal your personal details or hold your computer for ransom.

Other criminals take advantage of the fact that people love using public wifi. They create phony wifi networks that have a name that looks legitimate. Once you are connected to the fake network and start shopping, phishing thieves can eavesdrop on this unsecure network and steal your data. They can also steal your credit card details or your usernames, emails, and passwords and try them on different websites. Especially if you are using a mobile device while shopping online, it can be easy to ignore public wifi threats.

For these reasons, we urge you to be especially careful during the upcoming holidays when cybercrime peaks. One of the best ways to protect your online privacy and security is by using a reliable VPN network for safe online shopping.

VPNs and online shopping

A VPN (short for Virtual Private Network) works by encrypting your device’s traffic and securely re-routing it from your ISP to your preferred VPN server. Through this process, your encrypted data can’t be accessed by any third party. Not only that, your ISP can’t even tell what you are doing online. Further, you are given a new IP address which guarantees a new online identity.

When you connect to an unsecured public hotspot, a VPN creates a private tunnel within that hotspot. As such, malicious people can’t intercept your traffic, connect to your device, or even install malware through the network.

Some top VPNs have a feature that identifies and blocks malicious websites that are used for phishing purposes. NordVPN’s CyberSec feature blocks ads, tracking, malware, spams, and phishing attacks. This means if you fail to detect a phishing scam early, the VPN will not let you be directed to malicious websites. It will also prevent you from downloading infected files.

Tips for a safe online shopping experience

In order to keep your data safe and protected data during the upcoming holiday shopping season (and any other time of the year), we offer you the following tips:

Look at the address, not the name

Whenever you get a promotional email that advises you to take advantage of an offer, don’t just look at the name of the sender. If a criminal is masquerading as Amazon, they will always use details that look legit. But be aware that the email address of the sender will be different from an official Amazon address. Always confirm the email’s origin.

Avoid strange attachments or links

Phishing emails always have links that you are advised to click, attachments that you are asked to download, or both. These links usually lead you to fake websites that steal your data when you log in. Any attachments to the email mostly likely contain malware that can steal your data. Always hover over a link with your cursor to see where it leads to. Make sure that the website that is opened has a small padlock on the left side, and its address is HTTPS in green, not HTTP. Also verify the domain name carefully, as it may look similar to the real thing, buts it will in fact always be different.

Sense of Urgency

Phishing emails always urge you to take an action immediately. This is a ploy that doesn’t give you time to analyze the email or the sender carefully.  Most promotional emails from trusted companies usually notify you in advance, not when a short-time offer is opened. When the email has a lot of urgency, always analyze it first or completely avoid clicking any links.

Use a VPN

A VPN is the ultimate online security tool for safe online shopping as it gives you nearly guaranteed privacy and security. Therefore, it’s important to always make sure you turn on your VPN before connecting to a public hotspot or when going online to do your shopping. Selecting your VPN carefully is quite important, as not all VPNs maximize their security for safe online shopping.

Best VPN for Online Shopping

To help you get the best VPN, we have listed the top 2 VPNs that we recommend for online shopping. We have tested over 40 VPNs, and we came up with this list by considering various factors that relate to online shopping as well as general VPN usage, since a VPN is useful for more than just shopping.

NordVPN

NordVPN is a top VPN for online shopping and one of the top VPNs for 2018. The VPN is known for its solid security and absolute privacy. NordVPN is based in Panama, a country that promotes digital privacy. This means the VPN won’t keep any connection or usage logs since it’s not required by law there.

NordVPN now boasts the biggest server network of all VPNs, with a network of 5000+ servers spread across 62 countries. The VPN employs quality security standards with their AES-256 encryption. They also offer double-encryption through multi-hop technology that routes your traffic through two VPN servers, ensuring maximum protection. The VPN also boasts very high speeds due to the huge server network and supports up to 6 simultaneous connections. Its superb functionality and performance make it a good VPN choice for safe online shopping. You even get a 30-day money-back guarantee with all of their subscriptions.

CyberGhost

CyberGhost is another top-rated VPN. This VPN has seen major improvements in 2018, and it’s now considered one of the best VPNs for safe online shopping. CyberGhost VPN is based in Romania, a jurisdiction that has no data retention policies. Therefore, the VPN holds a strict zero logs policy that promotes user privacy.

CyberGhost has a VPN network of 3,000+ server in 61 countries, and these numbers have more than doubled this year alone. The VPN also uses the foolproof OpenVPN protocol with AES-256 bit encryption standards. CyberGhost also has server-level features that help online shoppers remain secure. The VPN blocks ads, malicious websites, and online tracking. It also reliably redirects you to the secure versions of websites. The VPN is also very fast and offers a no-hassle 30-day money-back guarantee on all its plans.

Additional Uses of a Shopping VPN

If you love purchasing products and services online (who doesn’t?!), then a VPN can offer more than just a private and secure shopping experience.

Price Segmentation

This is a strategy used by many online shopping websites to offer the same products to consumers at different prices, depending on their location. This strategy considers the fact that some consumers are willing to pay more than others for the same product. Furthermore, online shopping websites vary prices by geographic location.

Price Steering

This is another strategy where websites personalize prices per user and then steer some of them towards higher prices than others. This is done by profiling your online identity and tracking your search history and website visits. However, you can easily overcome this by using a private, secure VPN.

Conclusion

As you start thinking about gift-buying during the upcoming online shopping season, it’s wise to use safe online shopping habits. Avoid falling victim to enticing phishing deals and scams that can easily leave your wallet empty. With a VPN that has good malware, tracking, and malicious website blocking tools, you shop confidently and still get the best deals on Cyber Monday!

Andrew Marsden
Andrew is an experienced IT consultant who specializes in internet security. Despite being much in demand by corporations across the globe, his passion for discussing the latest technology means Top 5 VPN users get the benefit of his vast knowledge and experience.
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