A recent advisory from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre has warned consumers of the online threats they could face over the festive season as they attempt to stay cyber safe. This is primarily due to the rise of online shopping, something that has only increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as UK Finance revealed that December 2020 saw a higher proportion of online shopping than any other previous year.

With just days to go until Christmas, the NCSC, has advised shoppers to follow its advice on protecting devices and shopping securely online. The last-minute dash for buying presents, combined with this increase in online shopping, could leave more people vulnerable to falling for scams, especially those that use topical ‘lures’, such as spoofing retailers’ sales or notifications from legitimate delivery companies.

The NCSC Director for Policy and Communications, Nicola Hudson, said: “It’s great that people have the option to buy online as we enter the final days of Christmas shopping, but they should be alert to opportunistic scammers at this time of year.

“The good news is that there are common signs of scams that people can look for as they try and stay cyber safe. For example, offers that seem too good to be true or claim that particular items are in short supply are usually signifiers of cyber criminal activity.

“There are practical steps that people can take to protect themselves, though, whether it is setting strong passwords on accounts, to researching a brand before buying.”

Some of the key criteria to avoid gifting the scammers this Christmas:

  • Secure your accounts – use strong and separate passwords for your most important accounts such as email, banking or payment accounts. Neuways recommends the use of a Password Manager – not only do they safely store your passwords, but they randomly generate secure passwords, too. Turning on multi-factor authentication (MFA) will also add an essential extra layer of security, by requiring verification of the user’s identity with an additional email address or phone number.
  • Be aware of emails, text messages or websites that look too good to be true or suspicious – many scammers set up fake messages designed to steal your money and personal details. If something doesn’t feel right, do not engage with it, and report it to the NCSC.
  • Choose carefully where you shop – do your research on online retailers to check they’re legitimate before you buy. Some emails or texts you receive about amazing offers may contain links to fake websites – if you’re unsure, don’t use the link.
  • If you have one, use a credit card for online payments – most major credit card providers protect online purchases, and are obliged to refund you in certain circumstances.
  • Only provide enough details to complete your purchase – only fill in the mandatory details on a website when making a purchase (often marked with an asterisk).
cyber safe this Christmas

The NCSC is encouraging shoppers to report any kind of suspicious communications they receive over the festive period. Any suspicious emails should be forwarded to its Suspicious Email Reporting Service (SERS), by using the email address report@phishing.gov.uk. Suspected scam text messages can be forwarded onto 7726. Anybody who thinks they have discovered a scam website can report this directly to the NCSC on their website.

For more information on avoiding cyber threats, read our weekly bulletin, Neu Cyber Threats, published every Thursday morning on the Neuways website.