KALAMAZOO, Mich. — As the holidays approach, many people default to ordering their gifts and other items online to avoid long lines or out-of-stock products in stores.
With that, cybersecurity experts are warning consumers to be more aware of scammers while online shopping.
"Going to websites you're not familiar with, or clicking email links are probably one of the big ones," said Western Michigan University Co-Director of Cybersecurity Programs Dr. Alan Rea.
In 2020, 6.95 million new phishing and scam pages were created, according to the 2021 State of Phishing and Online Fraud Report.
"Phishing is still big, not only email, but mobile messaging, we're getting those a lot now, and on social media. You'll get them on whatever social networking site you're on, so I just tell people don't click on the links even though it's convenient," said Dr. Rea.
The same report said 94% of that malware worms its way into your computers by email.
Dr. Rea said around the holiday season, it can be harder to notice.
"We get way more email, right? We get a lot of emails as it is from companies that we've done business with, but at the holiday season, you get them from people you that you do business with, ones you've done with in the past that may be years ago, right? You know, but and so we get quite a bit," said Dr. Rea.
His advice? Don't click on the links even if it's a deal that is too good to pass up. Dr. Rea suggests going straight to the website.
"They'll click a link, right, and almost always, sometimes it's the real site, but a lot more times, it's a site that looks like what the real site should look like. You provide your login, your password, you might give them credit card information, and you know, you've compromised your information," said Dr. Rea.
Another way to shop safer both online and in-stores is by using your digital wallets or payment platforms like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, or even PayPal.
"It's just an extra layer, if you want to feel that you're a little bit more protected. If you're not comfortable using the phone, you know, to store your credit card and make the payment, then just make sure your credit card has a smart chip if you're going out and about," said Dr. Rea.
Additionally, Dr. Rea suggests updating new toys or systems that connect to the internet immediately before use. He also said to change the default administrator password so hackers can't get in as easily.