(BPT) – If you’re planning to do most of your holiday shopping online this year, you’re far from alone. In light of COVID-19, many people are erring on the side of safety and staying out of stores.

In a recent McAfee survey entitled “Holiday Season: State of Today’s Digital e-Shopper,” 49% of U.S. respondents reported that they’ve ramped up their online shopping since the pandemic began. And a full 36% say they’ll continue that pattern over the holidays.

“While more than 124 million consumers visited retail stores over the holiday season in 2019, this new survey reveals more people plan to connect and shop online this year — for both themselves and family/friends,” the study reports.

That makes perfect sense. The problem is that cybercriminals are seizing that opportunity to create new (and often clever) schemes for stealing personal information and money from online shoppers. Not surprisingly, McAfee recorded 419 such threats per minute in Q2 2020 — a boost of nearly 12% from the previous quarter.

In response to such issues, here are suggestions for protecting yourself as you engage in the joys of online holiday shopping this year.

Install effective antivirus software. As criminals get more and more sophisticated, traditional antivirus software may not be enough to protect you and your family from their schemes. Fortunately, comprehensive security system McAfee Total Protection is designed to ward off the most intense malware, phishing attacks and other cyberthreats, and McAfee’s WebAdvisor is able to keep you up to date on all malicious websites discovered.

Double-check deals offered via email or text. Criminals often pretend to be major retailers to trick you into buying. Instead of clicking on the links presented and/or automatically providing your financial information, verify the offer with the primary source before buying.

Be savvy when buying gift cards. The McAfee report shows 35% of consumers plan to buy more online gift cards this year, but shoppers are urged to check their authenticity via multi-factor authentication before paying for them. Phony gift cards are trending this season, but the survey found only 25% of respondents check their legitimacy before buying.

Install apps selectively. McAfee advises shoppers to be wary of providing too much personal information to secure an app, since cybercriminals target popular consumer apps to try to collect data for nefarious purposes.

Avoid reusing passwords. Yes, it can be inconvenient to keep track of multiple passwords. Do it anyway to prevent thieves from accessing multiple accounts if they succeed in hacking your information.

As cybercriminals get more and more clever, consumers must be vigilant year-round about protecting themselves. To find more information about guarding yourself from their activity, talk to the experts at McAfee.

“Cybercriminals continue to adapt and innovate their activity online in order to scam more victims — and the holidays are a peak time for them,” the study reports. “As individuals, families and friends navigate the ‘new normal’ this holiday season — and turn to online channels to shop, share cheer and celebrate with one another — it’s critical they too are aware of the increased risks they face online.”

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