As the festive winter season approaches, people are busy buying presents for their loved ones or using an opportunity to grab discounts and deals. While online shopping is breaking records every year, hackers and cyber criminals are looking for easy ways to benefit from it as well.

“More and more Internet users are buying presents online, as it is less stressful and likely cheaper. These days it is absolutely possible to get all you need without ever leaving home,” says Daniel Markuson, DigitalPrivacy Expert at NordVPN via a press release. “But there’s bad news as well. Holiday shoppers, looking for last-minute gifts, tend to be less careful and that opens a perfect opportunity for online shopping frauds and identity theft.”

While scammers, hackers, and other shady individuals are polishing new techniques, many online shoppers are still unaware of the basic online privacy rules. According to Markuson, there are some simple steps that help avoid online fraud:

1. Look into the online store

You should ideally stick to websites you trust or have bought from before, as there are some online stores created by scammers who just want to get your credit card information. Otherwise, do the research: Do they interact on social media? Are there any customer reviews? Are there any spam complaints? Check their email, phone number or address – if you can’t find any of those, it might be a fake company.

2. Too good to be true? Scam!

Criminals use two main techniques to scam you during the festive season: rock-bottom prices and email scams. If the deal seems too good to be true – it probably is. Extremely low rates, when compared to similar stores, may mean that the website exists only to get your personal information.Similarly, scam email deals promise a too-good-to-be-true prices or freebies,but clicking on them could infect your computer or smartphone with viruses and malware.

3. URL should start with ‘https’

When making an online payment or entering any personal information, the first thing you should check is whether the webpage URL starts with ‘httpsrather than ‘http’. The tiny ‘s’ means that the connection is made through a secure protocol and your data is encrypted properly.

4. Stay away from public WiFi

It’s never a good idea to shop online while you are connected to a public WiFi network at a cafe, hotel, city park or any other public place. PublicWiFi networks are common hunting grounds for hackers and datasnoopers, who try to access your personal and financial information, such as credit card details.

5. Use a VPN to encrypt your traffic

Can’t resist doing your shopping while on public WiFi? Then you need a VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPN encrypts your Internet traffic and is the best security mechanism you can employ to make sure your browsing data remains safe from spying eyes. From the moment a user turns on a VPN, their Internet data is encrypted. It becomes invisible to third-party snoopers or hackers and even the VPN itself.

6. Mind the details

Stay organized: keep all the receipts, order confirmation numbers and other documentation you got after an online purchase. Also, don’t forget to check your credit card statements regularly, at least once a week. If you see some unexpected activities – recall whether you really authorized the charge. Your bank or other credit card provider can help you solve the problem.