I do about 90% of my holiday shopping online these days. As a working mother of two kids who are involved in a lot of extracurricular activities, I find it hard to carve out the time to actually go to stores or the mall to buy gifts. Most of the time, I’m shopping for gifts late at night from the comfort of my own home long after the stores have closed and everyone in my house is fast asleep.
I absolutely adore online shopping, but it does have its pitfalls because it could also land you with the headache of dealing with identity theft, malware on your computer, and other cyber unpleasantness.
When purchasing online this holiday season—and all year long—keep these five safety tips in mind to help minimize your risk of becoming a cyber victim.
- Do not use public computers or public wireless for your online shopping.
Public computers and wireless networks may contain malicious software that steals your information when you place your order, which can lead to identity theft. It’s always better to do your online shopping at home or on a secure WIFI network.
- Know your online shopping merchants.
Limit your online shopping to merchants you know and trust. If you have questions about a merchant, check with the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission. Confirm the online seller’s physical address, where available, and phone number in case you have questions or problems. Do not create an online account with a merchant you don’t trust.
- Pay online with a credit card instead of a debit card.
If you typically use a debit card for online purchases, you may want to reconsider. If your card information is hacked and purchases are made without your permission, you’ll quickly find out that debit and credit cards are treated quite differently. The key difference: With a credit card, the card issuer must fight to get its money back. With a debit card, you must fight to get your money back. A safer way to shop online is to pay with a credit card like our Signature credit card rather than debit card. Also, by limiting your online shopping to only one credit card, you limit the potential for financial fraud to affect ALL of your accounts. Stay aware of charges and always be sure to check your statements regularly and carefully.
- Look for “https” when making an online purchase.
The “s” in “https” stands for “secure” and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted. This helps to ensure your information is transmitted safely to the merchant and no one can spy on it.
- Be careful opening emails, attachments, and clicking on links.
Be cautious about all emails you receive, even those purportedly from your favorite retailers. The emails could be spoofed and contain malware.
I hope that these cyber shopping tips will help you have a safe and happy holiday season!
Until the next time,