Amazon Prime Day—8 tips for safer shopping

Avid Amazon Prime Day shoppers may have been worried they’d missed it this year—thanks coronavirus. Fear not, last month Amazon announced Prime Day will take place three months after its original annual date, beginning today. And this year, it’ll take place over two days, rather than one.

This could mark the beginning of early “peak season” holiday shopping, which usually happens a week before Thanksgiving.

That said, it’s time to brush up on our cybersecurity wits so we can shop early, safely, and save ourselves future headaches in the new shopping season.

How to shop Amazon Prime Day the practical and cyber-sensible way

1. Secure your Amazon Prime account

You can do this by setting up two-factor authentication (2FA)—if you haven’t already done it. Many websites these days already have a secondary means to authenticate either a session or the user. As an Amazon user, you should know that Amazon has been using this security feature for a long time now. If you’re not aware of this, go to your local Amazon Help & Customer Service page and search for “two-factor authentication” to get yourself started.

2. Use only your credit card when buying online

When it comes to which card to use when buying things online, you cannot go wrong with using a credit card over a debit card. Why? Because credit cards have fraud protection in place whereas bank cards, often, don’t have any.

3. Use Amazon’s official app

You can download this from both the Google Play and Apple App stores. Not only would doing so be convenient, it’s also safer, as long as you’re using the legitimate one of course. It’s safe to assume that cybercriminals wouldn’t pass up on Prime Day, whether the date had been moved this year or not, given that Amazon is such a household name they can bank on.

4. Use your Alexa to shop

This may sound counterintuitive, given that we cannot stress enough how vulnerable and unsecure IoT devices are. But you can still use your Alexa to shop, just make sure you do it with with security and privacy in mind. By this, we mean Alexa shouldn’t be activated straight away, from the box into the boudoir. So make sure you take the time and effort to set up your personal assistant based on the level of privacy you want the device to give you. Here are several points to consider:

  • Make sure you secure your home network first.
    • Have you changed the default name of your home Wi-Fi?
    • Is your router firewall enabled?
    • Are you using the router’s default credentials?
    • Is your wireless network password the strongest you can make it?
    • Is your router’s firmware updated?
    • Have you disabled router features you don’t really need or use?
  • Manage Alexa’s voice recording.
    • You can do this by setting it to automatically delete voice recordings at the earliest setting, which is 3 months. If you think this is too long, you can manually delete the recordings yourself.
  • Disable the feature that allows users to improve Alexa’s transcription capabilities.
  • Lock certain voice purchase commands behind a PIN.
  • Turn off your Alexa (or its microphone) when not in use.

5. Buy only from sellers you are comfortable buying products from

This may seem like an easy decision, but when you’re already on your computer or phone and see something you really want—which isn’t on your shopping list, by the way—make sure your want doesn’t blind you to the seller’s reputation. When you find yourself in this position, ask yourself these questions: Would it really be such a hassle for me if I check what other buyers have to say about this seller first before I buy something from them? Do the reviews seem to have come from actual buyers and not paid reviewers? How long has this supplier been selling on Amazon? Is this deal too good to be true?

6. Get to know Amazon’s policies

If you encounter a suspicious email, call, text message, or webpage claiming to be from Amazon or someone associated with the company, would you know what to do? Familiarize yourself with Amazon’s policies so you can stay one step ahead of the scammers.

7. Use a VPN, especially when you’re shopping on-the-go

Everyone knows that public Wi-Fi is generally considered dicey. As such, users are advised to connect to public Wi-Fi with caution else you run the risk of compromising your privacy, along with your credentials and personally identifiable information (PII). One way to address this is to use VPNs on a secured (password-protected, in other words) public network. The caveat here, of course, is that you should pick a mobile VPN app that doesn’t just talk the talk.

The other way is to not shop on-the-go at all.

8. Familiarize yourself with potential scams that are aimed at Amazon users like you

Knowing is half the battle. Read up and remind yourself that a known cybercriminal modus operandi (MO) is to target users who aren’t aware and/or who seem to not care about their security and privacy. Once you have an idea of their MO, you’re more likely to be on the lookout and, in turn, avoid the scams.

9. Security beyond Prime Day

Shopping season is unlikely to end with Prime Day, and nor should our vigilance as online shoppers. This way, we can keep our data and PII as secure and far away from the grasp of online criminals as possible. Amazon is one of the many platforms we use to shop. But what we have outlined here can be tweaked to apply to others.

Have a happy, exciting, and safe shopping journey ahead!