Online Holiday Shopping Continues to Grow – Be Safe!

This article was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on November 5th, 2013

Last year’s “Cyber Monday” -- the Monday following the Thanksgiving holiday -- was the heaviest spending day of the year for the third straight year, ringing up nearly $1.5 billion in online sales. It was the first time that online sales had topped the $1 billion mark. This year, the National Retail Foundation projects a 13 to 15 percent increase in online sales.

Here are some tips to protect yourself:

  • Don’t fall for email offers that are too good to be true, particularly from retailers you don’t recognize. For example, if you received an email or text message offering a new gaming platform for half of what other stores are selling it for – look out, it’s probably a scam. It’s best to patronize well-known retailers, even if it means having to spend a little more. It’s better to spend a little more for your item versus sending a lesser amount to a scammer and not getting your item at all.
  • Don’t shop using public Wi-Fi networks. Coffee shops and other popular free Wi-Fi spots are also popular hangouts for scammers who are hoping to capture your credit card details as they are sent to the retailers’ sites. It’s okay to browse items over Wi-Fi, but when it’s time to check-out and pay, do that over a network you trust at home.
  • Make your online purchases using a device you trust, one that’s kept up-to-date on patches and antivirus. This includes not only your home computer, but also your smartphone and tablet. If you have an infected system, you could be sending your account information to a scammer.
  • Consider using a credit card with a low limit specifically for your online purchases. This will limit the damage that a scammer can do if they get a hold of it. Debit cards are not recommended for online transactions since the purchase protections are sometimes different, and the money is gone from your checking account until the matter is resolved. Most credit card companies will waive interest fees for charges that are being disputed, so you have more time to resolve suspected fraud.
  • Only shop sites that are HTTPS, which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. Check the website in your browser’s address bar and if it says “HTTP” – and not “HTTPS” -- on the payment page, then it is not secure and you should shop elsewhere.

The Internet is a fantastic way to shop, especially in Hawaii where our retail options are somewhat limited or if you’re like me and want to avoid the holiday crowds. And if you follow these tips, it can be a safe experience that won’t ruin your holidays. Happy shopping!

Hawaiian Telcom Information Security Director Beau Monday is a local cybersecurity expert. Reach him at