As South Africa prepares for the biggest shopping days of the year, we want to remind you to please take extra safety precautions when shopping.

There are already numerous advertisements doing the rounds teasing significant price reductions and discounts on groceries, clothing, subscriptions, furniture, electronics, and more. You’re going to be inundated with even more of these adverts from retailers (known and unknown to you) in the next few days. Remember that some of these could be fake advertisements trying to get you to share your personal information or even access your banking details.

Beware of deals that sound too good to be true

If you see a deal that is just too good to be true, it could be cybercriminals taking advantage of this period by releasing new cyberattacks or updating existing ones to trick you. They could entice you with unreal deals and take you to a malicious website, or even to a fake popular online shopping website that they recreated (with a URL similar to a legitimate site).

Individuals may also advertise products that they actually don’t have, or upload photographs of an item that looks brand new but is actually in a much worse condition or even broken.

Shop with caution

  • Beware of adverts that contains links or attachments. Instead of clicking or tapping these items, rather go directly to the retailer’s website to view the available deals.

  • Ensure that your mobile device is running the latest available operating system and that all your apps – especially those you shop on – are also up to date.

  • Make sure you have anti-virus installed on all your devices. At UCT, you have access to Trellix/McAfee which you can install on your UCT-owned and personal computers.

  • Avoid saving your usernames, passwords, and banking details in browsers and in applications. While saving your credentials are convenient, rather be extra secure and log on manually each time you need to access these services.

  • NEVER share your username and password with anyone, no matter how official or convincing the requester may seem.

  • Use multi-factor authentication (where available) as an extra security measure.

  • When making payments on websites, check that the address bar includes a padlock and that the address starts with https (instead of just http). If either is missing, do not pay, as the site’s security cannot be trusted. Reputable websites will also have valid digital transaction certificates and secure payment systems.

  • Avoid online shopping while using public WiFi networks.

  • Monitor your bank statements and report any suspicious transactions.

  • When buying second-hand goods, always test the item first to ensure it’s in good working condition. Never make a deposit before you have seen the product.

Report suspicious requests to purchase gift vouchers or cards

There is also likely to be numerous spear phishing attacks – where cybercriminals impersonate UCT senior management – to get your attention. It is highly unlikely that the Vice-Chancellor or a senior UCT staff member will send you an email asking you to do them a favour, such as buy them items like gift cards or vouchers. If you get such an email, do not respond to it. Verify it by directly contacting the individual using their officially listed UCT contact details on Outlook instead of those provided in the message.

And remember to always report suspicious emails sent to your UCT email address, so that we can put the necessary security measures in place.

Stay safe over the coming season.