The holiday season is upon us, and for many that means that online shopping will see an uptick in numbers, not only from Black Friday deals, but also Cyber Monday and beyond. Just last year consumers spent $3.45 billion on online shopping on Cyber Monday; Black Friday’s online sales trailing behind that figure by only $110 million less. To keep your money and information from ending up in places where it shouldn’t be, here are some best practices to keep in mind when online shopping this holiday season (and beyond):
Use “https” encrypted websites
Look for “https” in the web address (the “s” at the end of “http” stands for secure). This should be in the web address of every page you’re on (especially ones which ask for personal information) and not just on Sign In pages. This is an added level of protection which encrypts any information you submit.
Protect your passwords
Harder passwords may be more difficult to remember but it makes them more difficult for outsiders to crack. Avoid using things which can easily be found online like names, birthdates, phone numbers, and addresses. And don’t tell others your password.
Only give them the information that’s required
If you can get away with not filling out every field, like optional phone numbers, don’t bother giving them any extra information. The less you provide the less someone could possibly swipe and the great thing is this can help save time, too.
Skip debit cards
Use credit cards or services like PayPal to protect yourself. Debit cards link directly to your bank account and we don’t want any strangers getting their hands on that. Credit cards can offer a certain amount of protection and lower liability should your card number be stolen.
Do a little research
That ad or email offering a deal too good to be true? It just may be. Check to make sure the company you’re dealing with is reputable. Type in the company name into a search box and try out keywords with it like “complaint,” “review,” or “scam” and see what comes up. Then decide if you feel secure enough providing them with your information.
Avoid clicking links and attachments
This goes along a bit with the last point. When you open emails, check the sender’s email address. If it looks suspicious, you can delete the email or mark it as spam or perhaps a phishing attempt depending on the content of the email. Phishing is an identity theft crime where an email or website looks like a legitimate site or person but is in fact there to collect your information by asking you to do simple things like: update your account information, reset your password, or verify your address. If you’re not sure about the authenticity of an email do a quick search to see if it might be a scam and/or (without clicking any links in the email) access the website (by typing it into your browser) and check that the legitimate site is indeed asking for your information.
Don’t overshare on social media
You got a super ginormous HD television for $100? That’s great, but not everyone on social media needs to know. Publicly announcing purchases is a good way for thieves to know where to get the goods. Be sure to check your privacy settings on social media, as well. Can only your friends see your posts? Can your friends’ friends? Can EVERYONE see them? How well do you trust all of these people? – Privacy settings are also important because the things you post to social media are clues for people to hack your accounts. That fancy boat “windwalker” that you took a picture with better not be one of your passwords.
Make sure your virus protection is on and software up to date
Having up to date software can give you a base level of security against viruses. Having anti-virus is helpful, but it’s malware that you have to watch out for. Malware has to be downloaded to your device, it’s not something you can just “catch,” but it’s usually attached to a legitimate-looking program or download. To guard yourself against this, only download applications from a legitimate, trusted source like Google Play or the App Store.
Avoid using unsecured networks or public hotspots
If you don’t need a password to get onto the WI-FI, identity thieves don’t either. Public networks can leave your information exposed. The safest method is avoiding wireless altogether.
Avoid saving your credit card information on the site
It can be helpful to have a site you use often to store your information, but that also makes it a bit easier for people who get into your account to purchase things. – This doesn’t even have to be a stranger, say you left your browser open and a child or family member decided to do a little shopping.
Check your financial statements regularly for odd charges
This is good practice any time. If odd charges come up, its best to know sooner better than later in order to minimize possible damage.
A lot of people skim over the fine print when they sign up for things, but it doesn’t hurt to know what you’re getting yourself into by signing up. Check to see if they share your information with any third parties and decide if that’s something you’re okay with.
Hopefully these tips will help you have a less stressful online shopping season, so shop smart, stay safe, and enjoy your holidays everyone. 🙂