In light of today being Black Friday for retailers, it may be assumed that not many days of the year can beat the mass spending that is predicted to occur in shops all over the country. Nevertheless, our evolved habits from high street to online shopping means that there could be another mass spending wave to come. Last year, Cyber Monday documented the online spending of £600 million by Britons and is now widely acknowledged to be one of the most colossal spending days of the year. This cyber spending spree originated in the US, the reduced prices a means of beckoning buyers back after the Thanksgiving celebrations. In 2013, $2.29 billion was spent online by Americans on Cyber Monday and, while Britain has not yet caught up with this astounding figure, Cyber Monday serves as the perfect Christmas bargain hunt because of prices being reduced for 24 hours. It therefore has the potential to rival Black Friday, with the added bonuses of no long queues, no physical jostling with other impatient shoppers and all purchases can be completed with a click from the comfort of home.

However, it is easily forgotten that in this digital age, cyberspace actually poses more of a threat to your spending power than public spaces do. In a year that has seen numerous hacking attacks at both macro and micro levels, it must be remembered that just because a threat cannot be seen face-to-face does not mean that it is immaterial. As a result of this philosophy, with £451,000 due to be spent online every minute this Monday, how can we ensure that our extensive purchases and personal data remain safe in cyberspace?

  • Beware of phishing emails: scammers know that this Monday is a prime opportunity for people to accept requests for personal and financial data and so scammers often pretend to be from banks and international retailers. Always phone to check if an email is legitimate and do not open attachments, as they could be infested with malicious software.
  • Use trusted websites: although it is tempting to surf cyberspace to gain the best bargains, a retailer’s reliability should be a top priority. Established brands such as Argos, eBay and Amazon accounted for 30% of total UK website visits on Cyber Monday in 2012 and in 2013, 4.1 million items were ordered on Amazon; clearly shoppers believe these corporations are believed to be reliable. 

To check if a website is encrypted it should read ‘https’ (the ‘s’ standing for secure) and have a padlock symbol, both are located in the address bar and indicate protection of data.

  • Privacy policy: if you do decide to use a new website, take time to read their privacy policy to understand what information the company requests and who it will be shared with. If the company is not dependable enough to have a privacy policy, then do you really want to entrust them with your personal data?
  • Update your security software and check your security settings: £196 million is due to be spent via mobile devices this Monday so it is crucial that security measures are in place to guard against unwanted data loss. Anti-virus and anti-spyware software should also be updated on laptops and PCs if they have not been already.
  • Strong passwords for online accounts: the more complex, yet memorable, the better for deterring hackers e.g. Cy6£rM0^d@y!
  • Limit use of multiple cards: the fewer credit/debit cards you make purchases on, the easier it is to keep track of your finances, particularly over a rapid one day period. It is also helpful to keep a record of confirmation emails of purchases in case of identity theft.

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