It’s now December and everyone is trying to bag a bargain and save pennies, and this is especially true for technology gifts. With an increase in online shopping, fraudsters are getting smarter and it’s getting harder to detect when we’re getting scammed. O2 is dedicated to helping you stay safe online and I’ve provided some of my top tips on how to keep you and your money safe this Christmas.

Step 1 – Know the Lingo

Phishing, Smishing, Spoofing – what does it all mean? The first step to keeping your details secure online is knowing what kind of things to look out for. Phishing/Smishing is the most common method that scammers and hackers will use to try and obtain your details. This is where someone either phones (phishing) or texts (smishing) you, pretending to be a legitimate company and asks for your personal info. Spoofing is linked to this, and it’s where someone will e-mail or text you to try and convince you they are from a legitimate company, for example copying Amazon’s exact e-mail layout, or a text coming from what appears to be an official company number. So what can we do to help ourselves?

Keep Yourself Secure

It’s good practice to regularly update your account information and recovery information, such as passwords, back up email addresses, and trusted phone numbers. Not only will this help prevent a potential data breach, but if you think that your details may have been compromised, you might need access to your recovery information in order to change your passwords and recover any information on the account.

Speaking of passwords, do you know your passwords? If you can’t remember the passwords for your accounts, it leaves them vulnerable. If you need to, you can reset your password and do this via an e-mail or text message. Here are some of my top tips for a good password; have a mix of upper and lower case letters, put numbers throughout not just at the beginning or end, and include one or two special characters. For example, a good password would be something like this; O2_GuRu_B1og!

And don’t make it obvious – the likes of ‘password’ and just your name/date of birth are the first things that hackers will try to use. It’s good practice to use a different password for each account you have, so that if one gets compromised, you don’t have to worry about the others. To help remember them, you can keep a note of your passwords in secure, encrypted places, such as locked notes on the Notes app on iPhone, or by using extra security such as App locker on android devices, where you can secure your apps with a fingerprint lock or passcode.

The same goes for any online shopping or banking apps that you use – an extra layer of security such as Face ID, passcodes, or fingerprint ID gives that extra layer of protection if you accidentally leave your phone unattended.

Watch out for emails after purchasing

Unfortunately the most popular sites for shopping are also the most popular for phishing emails. Amazon, Argos, John Lewis and Very are all frequent targets. With these sites being extremely popular at this time of year, scammers will chance their luck in the hope that you might have bought something from there or visited that site. If you receive an e-mail from a company you are unsure about, there are a couple of steps you can take to check if it is legitimate.

Always check the address it came from – you can do this by clicking on the senders name. Whilst it might say ‘Amazon UK’ or something along those lines, if it is a scam the actual sender address is usually a random name or mix of numbers. Also, never put in log in details, bank details, or any personal information after clicking a link in an e-mail – links in scam emails will take you to a legitimate looking website, but it is in fact a good fake. Always verify by closing the e-mail, opening your internet browser, and typing in the web address directly – if there are any issues on your account, such as miscellaneous orders or charges, you will be able to see and verify them there.

Also, whilst online banking security is extremely stringent, scammers spoofing text messages from your bank is becoming increasingly common. These are usually along the lines of ‘an unusual purchase has been made on your account’ or ‘a payment has failed for X purchase, please contact us’. These texts can come from the same number as legitimate texts from your bank, so it’s important to check every time. If you are unsure about a text message or purchase, always phone the number on the back of the card to check, never follow the link in a text or reply with any details.

If you are still unsure, find a contact number from the company’s official website and call them directly.

Too Good to be True

This might be an obvious one, but it’s still one that catches people out to this day. If something seems to good a deal to be true – it probably is. Always make sure that you are buying from a reputable seller, and if buying from a marketplace, always try and meet up to inspect the product before handing over any payment.

As always, O2 are here to help and guide you. If you need any help with passwords, account security, or online shopping, you can book an appointment in-store with your local guru, or speak to us over the phone or on webchat via the O2 website. If you feel that you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud online, Action Fraud have lots of information about who to speak to – you can reach them here at www.actionfraud.police.uk or 0300 123 2040.

O2 and NSPCC want to help your family enjoy the best of the digital world safely and confidently. To help, we’ve put lots of useful information on our website. Or if you would prefer to speak to someone, call our online safety advice helpline, visit o2.co.uk/nspcc or call 0808 800 5002. Lines are open from 9am to 7pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 6pm on weekends and will be free of charge.

The NSPCC helpline is open 24 hours a day, ready to give support and advice to any adult who’s worried about a child. Call 0800 800 5000, visit nspcc.org.uk/help, email help@nspcc.org.uk