5 Ways to Stay Safe When Shopping Online This Holiday Season
Face it: shopping in a brick-and-mortar store is not necessarily your first choice for your holiday purchases. We increasingly shopping through online shopping sites due to the convenience, ease, and huge variety of choices available.
Unfortunately, with the increase in digital shopping during the holiday season, the chance for identity and data theft also increases.
These risks aren’t inevitable, however. By following these 5 simple steps for online shopping security, you can reduce your risk for data theft while shopping this holiday season.
Make Sure Your Connections Are Secure
Ensuring a secure connection is less a concern than it was even 5 years ago, but it is worth noting. Typically, when you log in to a site, the address with start with “http://” followed by the site name(“http://www.giftbaskets.com”). This means that the connection is not secure. Instead, you want to see the URL start with https://. This means that any data shared between you and the server the site is on is encrypted and protected.
As of 2018, detecting secured sites just got easier. Google Chrome users will get an automatic warning when they browse an unsecured site that askes for information. So if you get the warning, or don’t notice that little “s” in the URL, do not under any circumstances provide any personal information.
Maintain Account Security for All Your Merchant Accounts
Basic account security starts with maintaining good login credentials. If you have multiple online shopping accounts, follow these best practices:
- Use a different password for each account. If someone steals a single password, it makes it much less likely they will be able to access the rest of your accounts.
- Use a complicated password, including letters, numbers, and symbols. Try to make it longer as well, like 10-15 characters.
- Don’t use a common phrase or word. Use something non-sensical or random. Write it down if you have to, but don’t use any words that are easy to guess or remember.
- Use two-factor authentication, if available. Two-factor authentication makes sure that anyone logging in to your account will need to have access to your phone or email, which mitigates some of the risk if your password is stolen.
Practice Safe Shopping Habits to Protect Your Data
We tend to think that if our passwords are secure, then we don’t have to worry about identity theft or hacking. This isn’t entirely true.
Consider this… where do you do most of your browsing? At home? Or on your phone? Maybe on a laptop on public Wi-Fi?
The truth is that if you aren’t on a secure Wi-Fi connection (which means most public internet hotspots or your cellular device) then you run the risk of letting someone “listen in” to your data transfers. Which means, if you are shopping, that they can pick up passwords, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers.
When shopping online, only do so from a secure location, preferably at home or at work. If you need a password to get on your Internet, then that is a good sign that at least no one is randomly listening in.
Don’t Fall for Phishing Scams
Phishing scams become more common during the holidays primarily because more of us are receiving gifts and newsletters from the businesses we follow online. A “phishing” scam is an effort by hackers to pose as official entities, like businesses or banks, to trick you into providing your personal information.
Phishers count on the fact that many consumers, presented with an official looking letter, will fall for the trick. This is only exacerbated by the fact that many email programs will hide the actual email address of a sender and replace it with a name. If you receive strange emails from a company that you shop with, always double check the sender. If it isn’t sent by someone at the domain of the business, then it is a scam.
Otherwise, common sense rules here. No bank of business will ask for personal information via email, nor will the ask you to verify anything unless you specifically asked for it. If you receive any email out of the blue that asks for financial information or location, it’s most likely a scam.
Online Shopping – Stay Safe Online This Holiday Season
Holiday cyber security relies on one primary thing: privacy. If you can keep your data private, then you can keep your purchases private and not worry about having your identity stolen. And, all it takes is a little bit of awareness. Pay attention to where you shop, and make sure they are using security software. Don’t broadcast private information on public networks, and don’t give out personal data based on email links or requests.
Follow these simple tips, and you can take the stress of potential data loss off the table and enjoy your holidays.