Safe Online Shopping

Tips for Safe Online Shopping

It is that time of year again, festive gatherings and holiday shopping! Many of us will choose to shop online and avoid going into the stores- who can resist one-click ordering and next-day delivery? Incredibly convenient, not just for us and businesses, but also for cybercriminals. So it is important to remain vigilant and be aware of the cyber risks to do safe online shopping. 

We want to help you protect your hard-earned cash from the scammers and hackers that pop up every year. It’s like they don’t care about the naughty list! With some simple preventative measures, you can enjoy your online shopping with peace of mind. 

Use a secure connection.

Public wi-fi and computers are convenient, and sometimes necessary to use. However, public wi-fi is not very secure – you shouldn’t ever shop online or access important accounts (like banking) where the transaction involves sensitive personal data while connected to public wi-fi. If you must buy a few gifts online while away from your home or work network, use a VPN (virtual private network) or your mobile hotspot.

Buy from secure eCommerce sites.

Shop at well-known retailers you trust, as scammers can easily set up fake e-commerce sites. Before making a purchase, read customer reviews of the merchant or check trusted sources, like the Better Business Bureau. Before entering your personal or financial information, ensure that the site is secure by checking for the “lock” symbol in the URL bar and the “HTTPS” in the beginning; this indicates that encryption is used to protect your data.

Keeping an eye on your bank statements.

Your first line of defense against identity theft and fraud is to pay close attention to your financial records, like bank statements and credit card transactions. You can usually follow this data up to the minute online. Flag any suspicious activity (like being charged for a purchase you didn’t make) and contact the institution immediately.

Use your credit cards for payment.

If possible, use a credit card instead of a debit card because there are more consumer protections for credit cards if something goes wrong. Debit cards are linked directly to your bank account, so you are at much greater risk if a criminal were to obtain this information. Also, consider using payment services like PayPal instead of your credit card to pay for purchases since they don’t provide merchants with your credit card information directly.

Knowing how much items should cost.

When shopping online, have a general sense of how much the items you want to buy should cost. Not only will that make you a comparison shopping extraordinaire, but you can also get a sense if an online store has prices that are too good to be true. In these cases, you might pay less, but then you might get an item that doesn’t match the description, is a counterfeit, or you might pay and not get any item at all! A little bit of research can help protect you.

Don’t share more than you feel comfortable.

While you need to share data to make a purchase online, you should be wary of any retailer requesting more information than you feel comfortable sharing. Oftentimes, you don’t need to fill out every field, and you shouldn’t if you don’t want to. If an online store requires you to share more information than you want, cancel the transaction and find another retailer on the internet or go to the store in person.

Think before you click.

Beware of emails, texts, or other promotions that seem suspicious or encourage you to urgently click on links. Scammers take advantage of holiday deals, so if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you receive an enticing offer, confirm it is coming from an actual retailer. Be careful with emails regarding shipping confirmations and payment changes. Phishing scams are cleverly crafted messages that look like official merchant notifications. As always, NEVER open an email from someone you do not know, did not expect to receive, or from a site you have not visited.

Making a cybersecurity list, checking it twice.

This year, give yourself the gift of peace of mind by following our cybersecurity checklist:

  • Strong & Secure Passwords

    Protect each account with a unique, complex password that is at least 12 characters long and use a password manager!

  • Activate Automatic Updates

    Turn on automatic software updates, or install updates as soon as they are available.

  • Watch Out for Phishing

    Know how to identify phishing attempts and report phishing to your email provider or work.

  • Enable MFA

    Use multifactor authentication (MFA) for any account that allows it.