The holiday season is a busy one for retailers and consumers, with shoppers rushing to find the perfect gifts for friends and family or snap up Black Friday sales.
Over the years, consumers have moved more and more of their holiday shopping online to help beat the rush. This year, it’s expected that about 41% of people will do the majority of their holiday shopping online.
But shoppers and retailers aren’t the only ones who are busy this season…so are cybercriminals. The holiday season is prime time for scammers to take advantage of busy shoppers, tricking them into giving out personal information or even paying for items they’ll never receive.
If you’re thinking of skipping the long lines at the store in favor of shopping online this year, protect yourself from cybercrime with these tips for safer online shopping.
1. Update Your Devices
Before you shop, make sure the devices you’re using are running the most up-to-date version of its software. This includes computers, mobile phones, tablets, and more—any device that’s connected to the internet. And if you’re shopping on mobile apps, make sure the apps are updated as well.
Keeping your devices updated helps protect them from viruses and other threats or vulnerabilities.
2. Vet New Sites Before Shopping on Them
Fake ecommerce sites are a favorite scammer tactic during the holiday season. For this reason, it’s best to stick to well-known sites with good reputations. But if you’re considering shopping on a site you’ve never used before, do a little homework first.
Do your best to confirm that the site is legitimate by:
- Reading reviews
- Looking for a physical address and phone number (if you have to hunt for a way to contact the company, that’s a big red flag)
- Making sure shipping and return policies are clearly laid out
- Checking with the Better Business Bureau
3. Always Use Secure Wi-Fi
Don’t shop using public Wi-Fi—it’s not secure. Hackers can target unsecured networks like these and steal data, including your payment details or other personally identifiable information.
Instead, use your phone as a mobile hotspot, use a trusted Virtual Private Network (VPN), or wait until you get home to do your shopping on your own secure network.
4. Look for the Padlock in the Search Bar
Make sure the sites you’re shopping from have valid security certificates. Secure sites will have URLs that start with HTTPS instead of HTTP, as well as a little padlock beside the URL in the search bar. When you see both of those things, that means the site’s security certificate is valid.
Never enter your payment information into a site that doesn’t display these signs of a secure site.
5. Use Strong, Unique Passwords and Multi-Factor Authentication
Create strong passwords for your online shopping accounts. Strong passwords should:
- Be long—at least 6 characters
- Include a mixture of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols
- NEVER include personal information like your name, the names of your pets or children, your address, birthdates, anniversaries, and so on
Create a unique password for every account. For additional protection, use multi-factor authentication whenever it’s offered.
To avoid having to keep track of dozens of different passwords, use a password manager. A password manager creates secure passwords and stores them for you. That way, the only password you have to remember is the one for your password manager.
6. Don’t Click Links in Emails or Texts…Go Directly to the Merchant’s Website
If you get an email or text with a link for an enticing offer, don’t click on it. Instead, head straight to the company’s website to verify that the offer is legitimate. Scammers can impersonate reputable companies and use links like these to install malware or spyware on your device.
This goes for tracking your online orders as well. While it may be convenient to click on the tracking link in an email or text, it’s much safer to log into the retailer’s or shipper’s website and enter your order or tracking information.
7. Use a Credit Card, Not a Debit Card
Credit cards come with more consumer protections than debit cards do, so if someone does get ahold of your payment information, you’ll be better protected from fraud.
With a debit card, it can take much longer for a disputed charge to be reversed than with a credit card. Plus, in the U.S., if your credit card details are compromised, your liability is limited to $50 (and many credit card companies won’t make you pay at all). That isn’t the case with debit cards.
For even better protection, use your credit card via a mobile payment option like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Google Pay. While not entirely hacker-proof, mobile payment systems like these can significantly reduce the risk of having your payment information stolen.
8. Watch Your Bank and Credit Card Statements
You should always pay attention to your bank and credit card statements. But during the holiday season, when you may be using your accounts more and cybercrime is more prevalent, it’s even more important to keep an eye on your accounts.
Routinely check your bank and credit card accounts for inconsistencies and unauthorized activity. You may also be able to set up notifications, so that you get an email or text message if your credit or debit card is used.
If you notice anything suspicious, contact your bank or credit card company as soon as possible using the number on the back of your card.
9. Don’t Give Away More Information Than Necessary
Pay attention to the types of information each site asks for to complete your purchase. Only fill out required fields, and if they’re asking for more information than you’re comfortable giving, cancel the transaction.
Don’t save your payment information in your profile on e-commerce sites. If the site automatically saves it, log into your account afterward and delete any stored payment details. Whenever possible, check out as a guest rather than creating an online account.
Every time you set up an account with a retailer, that’s one more database where your personal information is stored. The more places your data is stored, the higher your chances of being scammed.
10. Beware of Too-Good-To-Be-True Deals
Watch out for “deals” that seem a little too amazing.
This can include huge discounts as well as unrealistic shipping times. In the rush of holiday shopping, it can be tempting to grab every discount or “fast and free” shipping guarantee you can find, but take time to verify that those deals are legitimate before you order. Otherwise you may end up with a knockoff product…or worse, the item may never arrive.
Incorporating these practices will help you enjoy safer online shopping this holiday season and beyond.
Looking for more ways to protect your sensitive data from theft? Consider an identity theft protection plan from Securus. Learn more on our website or contact us at +1 (877) 833-9041 or email@example.com.