Whether you need to find last minute stocking stuffers or that final gift, no one feels like pushing their way through cramped shopping malls and spending an hour trying to find a parking spot. It is a lot more appealing to browse, buy, and have everything delivered to your front door, all while you sit in your comfy clothes sipping hot chocolate and watching Netflix. However, even though the benefits of getting your holiday shopping done online are a no brainer, that doesn’t mean you still don’t have to use your head. Online fraudulent attempts seem to be on the increase every year, so practicing smart shopping is the best way to ensure that you can enjoy the season without getting scammed.
8 Tactics to Keep You Safe This Season
- Use a safe method of payment
It may be easy to whip out a credit card and make your purchase, but that is sensitive information that when compromised can end up costing you quite a bit. It is much better to use a form of payment that is controlled and isn’t linked to personal banking information, like PayPal accounts or other e-wallets. Gift credit cards, like Visa Debit, are also a good idea, knowing that if the card is compromised, it is a minimal and set limit that is at risk.
- Stick to trusted retailers
Bigger retailers with a reputation are your safer bet. They not only usually have much better shipping incentives, but the security that they use to run their sites is top-notch. Plus, when they have a reputation to uphold, it’s less likely there’s going to be shady deals going on under their brand name.
- Do not buy from unencrypted sites
Speaking of security, it’s important that you never give out financial information on a site that isn’t SSL protected. SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer and secures the connection between you and the site through encryption. This type of site is much harder for scammers to tap into. You can see if a site is SSL secured by the way the address displays in the URL bar: it will show https before the URL and not just http.
- Use strong passwords
An aspect of security that is in your control is protecting your information with passwords. When setting up any accounts that you use to shop online – a customer account with a retailer or your online banking – be smart about the passwords that you use. You should choose a strong password and change it frequently, and of course never use the same password twice. Every account should have its own unique password and they should be a combination of numbers, letters and symbols. Passwords should never include personal information – like your birthday – or be left incredibly simple, like 12345.
- Do not consider email offers
Because of the high-risk of email phishing scams, avoid any offers that are made by email and do not click on any links within emails. Clicking links in emails can leave you vulnerable to Trojan viruses and compromise the security of your identifying information. If an offer is genuine, it will also be promoted and available on the website itself. So instead of clicking a link, type the brand address into the search engine and visit the website directly.
- Avoid clicking on advertisements
This also goes for advertisements that show up in banners when you are shopping online. The site itself that you are originally on may be secure, but advertisements can pop up and once clicked will install malware on your computer, some of which will log your keystrokes – which means your passwords, even if strong, will be compromised.
- Do not shop over public Wi-Fi
Never shop over a public Wi-Fi connection. It isn’t securely protected and leaves all of your activity open for any scammer watching the network. Only ever shop via a secure internet connection, ideally in your own home.
- Check your financial accounts regularly
Finally, and this is a good practice in general, but especially if you do shop online, keep a close eye on your accounts. You can only know that you are a victim of fraudulent activity if you are keeping on top of it. It’s important to check your financial accounts frequently in order to spot unusual behavior right away and nip it in the bud.