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Consumers are preparing to hit the online shopping strip on Black Friday.

As with any increased spending period, consumers are urged to remain vigilant and alert when transacting at a point of sale or online. Just because you are in a festive and carefree mood it does not mean that criminals and fraudsters have taken the day off.

Online shopping is one of the fastest-growing retail platforms in South Africa. It makes sense therefore to update and familiarise yourself with the safety features and measures while shopping. After all, you will not enter your card PIN with someone peering over your shoulder while paying in a shopping queue, so why expose yourself on line?

“We urge consumers to remain vigilant of scammers who are looking to steal your money and personal details in the real world and the virtual world,” says Ethel Nyembe, the head of Card Issuing South Africa at Standard Bank.

According to a report by the SA Banking Risk Information Centre, fraud incidents across online and mobile banking apps increased by 75.3percent in 2018. Therefore, as you begin hunting through Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals this year, heed the following six tips:

1. Avoid shopping on public wi-fi networks. Cybercriminals know how to thwart unsecured wi-fi to gain access to the information you send over it, so it's better you eat into some of your data to make sure your financial information is protected.

2. Use complex passwords for online retailers. Having strong, secure passwords is essential to keeping your online identity and accounts safe from hackers. Always include a mix of letters, numbers and special characters to make sure it's not easy to crack into your online platforms.

3. Never click on a suspicious link. Scammers might target you with emails that contain promotional links, appearing to be from a legitimate retailer. This is an attempt to get your attention and trick you into clicking on a link which carries malicious malware. Avoid clicking any unsecured links.

4. Be on the look-out. If you forget your bank card somewhere while shopping, rather cancel it immediately than go back to look for it. You might find it, but risks someone having taken your card details to use them for online fraud.

5. Ditch unsecured online stores. There are thousands of online stores, and with this form of shopping becoming so popular, it's easy to fall into the trap of purchasing through an unsecure site. Always look for a padlock on the site’s URL website itself to make sure it is safe.

"Black Friday is known to be one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year, and it goes without saying that, just like the festive season, this is a busy time for criminals. Be sure to take extra precautions to protect yourself, your purchases, and your personal information,” says Nyembe.

How to guard your PIN:

* Memorise your PIN - never write it down or tell anyone what it is.

* Make sure nobody sees you entering your PIN.

* If anything makes you suspicious while using an ATM, cancel the transaction and remove your card.

* If you think your PIN is no longer a secret, change it. 

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