10 Tips for Secure Online Holiday Shopping
The holiday season is quickly approaching, and more than ever consumers are shopping online. Adobe Analytics believe that 2017 will be the first year that holiday shopping breaks $100B, predicting 13.8% growth year-on-year to $107.4B. With that large of a number, you can bet the bad guys are going to try to cash in on your private information. I am offering some advice on how to stay safe when purchasing online.
1.) Secure Websites
Only purchase from websites that have their SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption installed. Just look for a green lock located in the address bar at the top of your screen. The site should also start with https://
Please take into account that some websites do not become secure until the checkout process. Make sure the green lock is in the address bar. If the green lock is not visible, do not enter your personal information. Just, leave the website and purchase elsewhere.
2.) Trusted Websites
Purchase only from websites that you know and trust. These would be online stores such as Amazon, eBay, and Walmart.
Hackers enjoy setting up fake websites and phishing emails that can infect your computer. Best advice if you receive an email from a shopping site do not click on the email. Go to the website instead this is a safer approach. Here are some things to look for when trying to spot a fake website or email.
- Broken Language
- Prices are too low
- Bad design
- Weird URLs
Tip: Use caution on trusted auction sites. Look for sellers' ratings that have higher transaction counts of satisfied customers. Low transaction numbers usually mean the account is fake.
3.) Keep your antivirus and operating system up to date
Unpatched software puts you at risk of malware infections. Take the time to make sure your personal computer is up to date. I know it can be time-consuming, but it will take less time to update your computer than it will be for you to recover from identity theft or ransomware.
There are many free antivirus utilities out there. PCMag compared 17 different free antivirus tools, you can see their comparison breakdown here.
**Please keep in mind that you should be running Windows 7 or newer, Windows Vista and XP are no longer supported by Microsoft.
4.) Keep an eye on your bank account
I hope you already are doing this, but if not I am asking that you start.
Hackers love banking information, and when making frequent purchases during the holiday season, it is best to keep a close eye on your bank account/s. Cross-reference your purchases and make sure everything is balanced. Alert your bank if your balance seems off.
5.) Use a credit card, not a debit card
Keep in mind fraudulent charges are handled much differently between credit and debit cards. It all comes down to how you get your money back. With a credit card, you have not lost any money, and it will never affect your bank account. Almost all credit cards promise a zero liability for all fraudulent charges.
With debit cards, your bank account is affected the second that the transaction takes place. If the fraudulent transactions are significant, you could experience financial stress and burdens.
If you are not able to apply for a credit card, you may want to consider a prepaid card, or possibly sign up for a payment service such as PayPal.
6.) Keep your shopping accounts secure
Are you using the same password for all your online accounts? If so, you are a hackers dream.
Start using different unique passwords for all your online accounts. Do not have it be something that is obvious either, such as “123456,” “qwerty,” or my personal favorite, “password.”
Hackers are not going away anytime soon. It is time to get used to creating long, strong, and unique passwords that you change often.
7.) Do not give out private information
Why on Earth would you need to give a website your social security number for purchasing socks? Well, surprise you do not!
Safeguard all of your information do not be afraid to tell people, “No, you are not getting that information from me.”
8.) If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is!
I love a great deal but think about it, do you think that hot new Christmas item that no one can get his or her hands on can be $300 less than regular asking price? Probably not!
Best advice: Use a comparison-shopping app. These apps will help you find the best deals and coupons without making an expensive mistake. Here are a few that I suggest:
- Shop Savvy
- Brad’s Deals
9.) Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi is a beautiful thing, but public Wi-Fi has significant setbacks when it comes to security. Unsecured connections allow hackers to see everything you are doing in real time.
Best advice: Purchase a VPN (Virtual Private Network) Just think of a VPN as a safer connection to the internet. PCMag recently did an excellent VPN comparison and breakdown. Click here to see their results.
10.) Do not purchase items from a public computer
Entering your sensitive information into a public computer is a problem waiting to happen. Why? Well, who knows who was on the computer before you. The thief could have installed software that records every keystroke.
Best advice: If you are on a public computer, do not go to any sites that you need to type in your personal information. This includes social media, your email accounts, online retailers, and bank sites.
Hacking, breaches, and identity theft are not going away anytime soon. Start using these safety tips as quickly as possible to avoid any severe downtime or out of pocket expenses.
Eddy, Max. “The Best VPN Services of 2017 .” PCMag, 6 Nov. 2017, www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2403388,00.asp.
Rubenking, Neil J. “The Best Free Antivirus Protection of 2017 .” PCMag, 16 Oct. 2017, www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2388652,00.asp.