It's the most wonderful time of the year... unless the Grinch has had his way with your computer/credit cards! This year - from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday - more than 174 million Americans did their holiday shopping in stores and online. This number surpassed the 164 million estimated shoppers from an earlier survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. 81 million people shopped online during Cyber Monday alone! As many consumers do more and more of their shopping via the internet, there is one question that always lingers: Am I safe shopping online?
To help answer this question, here are 7 tips for safe shopping online this holiday season:
1) Think before you click on that suspicious link.
Scammers like to send emails that look real from retailers like Amazon, Ebay, etc. They'll craft the email to make it look like it's from a well-known shopping site or even from shipping sites like DHL, Fedex, UPS, and USPS. Once you click on their link, they'll have your information and/or could access your computer.
2) Always use strong passwords and never reuse a password.
Three simple steps can save you from a possible account compromise.
a. Always try to avoid easy to crack passwords by including a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. If you can, use 4 sets of 4 characters as your password.
b. Avoid using the most common passwords like your name, 123456, and password.
c. Most importantly don't use the same password for multiple sites.
3) Always use secured websites.
Before typing your sensitive information online, check to make sure the website you're visiting is a secure site. Secure sites have a closed padlock in the status bar and the URL will start with HTTPS. These two signs mean two things - the communication is encrypted and SSL verifies authenticity.
4) Always use your debit card as a credit card (or just use a credit card instead).
Using a credit card is considered to be a better option than using a debit card when shopping online. Most credit card companies will give you 30 to 60 days to report fraudulent activity on your card. Since it is a charge account, no actual money leaves your bank account and once you successfully dispute the fraudulent charges you will not be held responsible for them. Most debit cards give the user only a 2 to 7 day window to report fraudulent charges. Additionally, since the card is attached to your bank account it is attached to actual money. In order to receive a refund, the fraudulent transaction must first be completed before the money can be credited back to your account. This process can take up to two weeks. In that time, overdraft charges may be incurred and will have to be disputed with the bank.
5) Check bank statements regularly if not daily.
Almost all banks will allow you to set up email or text notifications for any credit card transaction. If you see any charges that are unusual, report them to your bank immediately.
6) Do not shop on your work computer.
It may be tempting to make a few purchases during a slow day at work, but it's a bad idea. If, by chance, you end up falling victim to a cyberattack, both your work information and personal information will be stolen. Your entire work network may become infected leading to a cybersecurity disaster. Limit shopping to your personal devices only.
7) Update your security software.
Outdated antiviruses and firewalls are easily exploited by cyberattacks. Keeping your software up-to-date at all times is one of the easiest computer security best practices to practice.
Don't let yourself fall victim to internet hackers and cyber terrorists this holiday season! Stay safe online and be sure to use the above tips to help keep your identity and credit card information private and secure!