Tips for Staying Safe While Shopping Online
Retailers make it easy to skip the crowds and complete most of your holiday shopping with a few clicks of the mouse. But, that convenience can make you vulnerable to fraudsters on the prowl for financial data they can use to fill their own online shopping carts. Fortunately, there are practical strategies to keep your private information safe before you hit the “checkout” button.
Here are six tips for staying safe while shopping online.
1. Update Your Software
Don’t make it easy for online hackers to access your private data. Malware, a malicious software crooks use, can steal your information and damage your electronic devices. All it takes is one click on an ad or hyperlink to download a nasty virus or spyware. It often works in the background to track your keystrokes. Sometimes, you won’t know you have it until you see mysterious charges or notice money missing from your account.
Ensure that all devices have security programs installed, including your mobile phone. They can help prevent the installation of a variety of malware. Accept program updates to stay protected.
2. Use Credit Instead of Debit
Saving money for holiday spending in a dedicated savings account is smart. But, you can’t use cash to pay for online purchases. Instead of transferring the funds to your checking account and paying with your linked debit card, use your credit card. Both cards offer protection against fraudulent charges. However, credit cards can provide greater protection with less hassle. If a thief accesses your debit card, he can drain your checking account before you realize there’s a problem. Account recovery can take longer and may be limited.
Pay for your online purchases with a credit card. Use your holiday savings to pay off those credit charges quickly.
3. Say “No” to Public Wi-Fi
Do you read the warning messages before you log into public Wi-Fi at the airport, library, or coffee shop? Like most people, you probably ignore the small print and quickly click, “I agree,” so you can get on with browsing the web. But, when you use public Wi-Fi, the information you send through apps or websites can be accessed by naughty cyberthieves. These criminals look for security flaws in public networks and intercept data from users.
Browse and add items to your online shopping cart as you wish, but wait to enter your credit card information until you have a private internet connection.
4. Shop at Secure Websites
New websites pop-up every year, claiming to have the lowest prices available online. Before you make your purchase, look at the web address on the checkout page. It should begin with “https” and have a closed padlock icon next to the browser address. These two features show that the information you’re about to transmit will be encrypted. You can click the icon to learn more about the secure connection.
Skip online retailers who don’t offer protection during the checkout process. Avoid online checkout pages that lack a padlock and only start with “http”.
5. Strengthen Your Passwords
Predictable passwords make it easy for cybercriminals to access your account. When you save your credit card information at a retailer’s website, it may only show the last four digits, and you might feel protected. But, if thieves guess your password and gain access to your account, they can change your shipping address. For example, a retailer’s “1-click settings,” which links a payment method with a particular address, makes it easy for crooks to receive the gifts you meant for someone else.
Use a different, complex password for every online account, even the ones you think you’ll only use once. Avoid simple passwords like “Gifts4Me123”. Consider using a password manager to help generate and manage secure login credentials.
6. Review Account Statements
During the busy holiday season, it’s easy to miss unusual charges on your account unless you’re paying attention. The more you shop, the more often you should review your account statements. Use technology to help stay on top of purchases.
Set account alerts that can inform you each time a transaction occurs or if one occurs over a certain dollar threshold.