It’s time to break out the wish lists and start searching for the perfect gifts. Whether you start shopping now, the day after Thanksgiving or wait until December, there are a few things to keep in mind while shopping online. Next time you bypass the hustle and bustle of brick-and-mortar stores for the convenience of online shopping, remember these tips:
Only purchase from safe and familiar sites. Try to stay away from fishy-looking sites, especially if they are promising a deal too good to be true. You should only give your information to secure sites encrypting your information. Secure sites will begin with “https” NOT “http,” and will have a LOCKED padlock icon either on the address bar or most commonly at the bottom of the browser.
Don’t give away too much information. A retail site will NEVER need your birthday or social security number to complete transactions. These two pieces of information, along with your credit or debit card number, puts you in a very vulnerable state for theft.
Always check your financial balances. Keeping an eye on your financial statements is always good advice, but even more so if you are making online transactions. Check your statements often and before the bill arrives to make sure you were not overcharged or the victim of theft. When using a credit card you may dispute charges, but only within a certain time frame – don’t wait too long or you will not be able to recover your losses.
Keep your virus software updated. Cyber criminals use Trojan horse malware to access your information from unsuspecting online shoppers. Keep all your anti-virus software updated to block your information from being accessed.
Create strong passwords and don’t always use the same one. Don’t continually use the same password for every site you log onto. Try to use variations of the same password – this will allow you to remember the password without making it too easy for criminals to access your account. A strong password will not be a real word with upper- and lowercase letters containing symbols and numbers.
Use mobile apps. As the popularity of smart phones increases, so does mobile shopping. The best way to mobile shop is directly through the business’ app. All major retailers have developed their own app for smartphone use. These apps are secure, easy to navigate and often offer special mobile discounts for users.
Lock your private Wi-Fi. Create a strong password for your home Wi-FI. This will keep outsiders from intruding and gaining access to your information.
Only shop on secure Wi-Fi networks. If at all possible, try to do most of your shopping on your own home network. Your home locked Wi-Fi is the safest place to online shop; however, sometimes shopping from home is not an option. If you must shop on a different Wi-Fi, make sure you are using a secure resource. Most importantly, never use a public or shared computer to make online purchases.
Purchase gift cards directly from the store. Gift cards can be the perfect present for someone who seems to have it all. Only buy gift cards directly from the retailer or business you are wishing to gain credit. Several scams promise discounted gift cards, but result in not being legitimate or with little to no credit left on the cards.
Use a credit card, not a debit card. Your credit card is the safest way to make an online purchase. In case your information ends up in the wrong hands, credit cards are not directly linked to your bank account and will prevent a criminal from emptying your account. Credit cards also contain a spending limit, limiting how much a criminal can buy with your money. One more great reason to use a credit card, you can dispute all charges with the likelihood of retrieving your lost money. Credit card companies are required to allow customers to dispute charges and investigate.
Online shopping is a great alternative to the traditional form of visiting the store. Many retailers hold online-only bargains and a wider selection of products. If you follow the above mentioned tips, all your purchases will stay safe this holiday season. Relax on the couch, watch a movie, eat your favorite snack and let the shopping begin!
A quick reminder to all online shoppers this holiday season: According to the Better Business Bureau, if your purchased products have not shipped by your originally agreed to date, you may cancel the order and request a refund. You also have the right to reject and return products misrepresented or defective.
Looking for more tips on staying safe online? Check out our previous blogs in this cybersecurity series: