It's that time of year again when all the sale signs come out and the talk of Christmas is in the air. As more people opt to shop online to nab a bargain, avoid the crowds or simply for the convenience, it also becomes a 'joyous' time for scammers as they try to take advantage of the influx of online shoppers and those who may not be aware of how to protect themselves. Read on for our top tips to stay cyber safe this Christmas.

Guest checkout

You may have noticed now that most online retailers will give you the option of creating an account with them or checking out as a guest. While creating an account can have its perks such as loyalty rewards, discount codes or alerts to online sales, it also means providing more of your personal information.

If it's a one-off purchase or a retailer you don't shop with frequently consider checking out as a guest instead. Not only will you be able to check out faster, but you won't be providing as much information that could be accessible to hackers in the event of a data breach.

Buy through sites you know

With so many sales around Christmas time, scammers will want to take advantage of your inner bargain hunter. They know there are 'hot' items that people will want to get their hands on and for the best price possible. But as the saying goes, if it's too good to be true, it probably is.

If you notice most big retailers have the same item on sale for a similar price, but you've found a website either online or through social media that is offering the same item at an unbelievable discount, it should be your first red flag. While you might not be getting the discount you anticipated, it's safer to stick with retailers you know so you can ensure you're receiving a legitimate product that you can return or exchange if you need.

Be sure to also look out for the "https" at the beginning of a website's address. The S in HTTPS actually stands for "secure", so if you don't see the "s" at the end of "http," then the site is not encrypted, and your data will not be secure. The padlock symbol you may have seen in your browser indicates the site has a valid HTTPS certificate.

Cybercriminals are smart though and will also use HTTPS websites to gain your trust, so avoid clicking on links that offer deals or incentives that you know deep down are too good to be true.

Check the address and contact details

If you're still not sure if a website is legitimate because it shows the padlock and HTTPS in the URL, check for contact details and a physical address of the company. Retailers want to provide you with the best customer experience as possible and will usually make it easy for you to find their contact information. If you're struggling to find anything in the form of customer support such as a working phone number and email, or you notice their company address is something obscure, then it probably isn't worth the risk.

Beware of fake shipping updates

If you receive a text or an email that claims to have 'information' on your order such as delivery tracking or a notice that it's been delayed, do not click on the link. When you have multiple orders on the go, it's easy lose track of which company has sent you order updates and shipping information. The best way to check on your order status is to refer to order updates sent directly from the retailer which will often include a summary of what you have ordered.

This information provides general advice only. We do not provide advice about this product based on any consideration of your personal objectives, needs or circumstances.