Your Online Shopping Safety Checklist
How did we survive before the days of online shopping?
Today, with a few clicks of the mouse, you can purchase just about anything. Need to stock up paper towels or diapers? Just access Google Express or Amazon. Last-minute birthday or holiday gift? Send an e-gift card. Want to delight with flowers or fruit? There’s a host of fresh options ready to serve.
While some consumers prefer to handle their shopping in-person, many embrace the convenience of online retail. After all, you can shop 24/7, avoid the traffic and often score free shipping. What’s not to love?
Yes, online shopping delivers – and can especially save time during the frantic holiday months.
But, you need to be smart. Let your guard down and you can quickly become a victim of identity theft, stolen goods and mass frustration.
So what are the tips to shopping online safely and smartly?
Shop from trusted and familiar websites. Beware of misspellings or sites using a different domain (like .net instead of .com) and never, ever buy anything online from a site that doesn’t have SSL encryption installed. You’ll know a site has SSL because the URL will start with HTTPS. It will additionally have a small icon that resembles a padlock within the browser bar.
Only provide the personal details necessary to complete your transaction. You don’t need to pass along your birthdate or social security number to make an online purchase, and if a crook gets these details, combined with your credit number, you are in deep trouble. And while it might make it convenient to store credit card data on certain retailing sites for repeat purchases, it is usually best to uncheck any option that lets the retailer store your credit card details on file. This way, if their systems are hacked, your own personal financial details will not be compromised.
Ensure your computer, tablets and smartphones are up to date with the latest malware and anti-virus protection. Be smart with your passwords. You’ve likely heard it a million times, but it is so important to utilize strong passwords, and create different passwords for different sites. If you use the same password for everything, and that password becomes compromised, you’ve made it easy for cybercriminals to do serious damage in your online universe. Additionally, set a passcode on your mobile devices. This way, if your device is lost or stolen, individuals cannot access your host of personal data on apps, email and beyond. And don’t forget to add protection on your devices like Find My iPhone or Android Device Manager to remotely lock and erase the handset or tablet.
Avoid public Wi-Fi and public computers when completing online transactions. If you have to make a purchase when out and about, turn on cellular data on your mobile device. Leveraging a VPN is also a great option for adding another layer of security.
Check your statements and financial accounts more regularly during the holiday season. This way, if you spot unusual or fraudulent activity, you can stop the damage early. If you see something wrong, contact your financial institution immediately so they can freeze your card and look into the questionable transactions.
Be extra vigilant when it comes to monitoring emails and alerts. Links in emails, posts and texts are often the ways cybercriminals try to steal your information or infect your devices. Also, be wary of emails regarding problems with your credit cards or accounts. Rather than supplying info via email or clicking on a link, visit your financial institution’s website directly, or call. They can verify if there is an issue.
Finally, read about return policies, shipping and taxes before you buy. If something doesn’t go as planned, it’s important to understand ahead of time the costs associated with a return, or a package that simply never arrives. With so many of us turning to online shopping, thieves are quick to poach packages from doorsteps, so have a plan for deliveries and have neighbors on the lookout for suspicious activity.
The rules and risks of online shopping can sound overwhelming, but if you are smart about protecting your online presence, this retail solution can be a savior for time-starved individuals.