Brace yourself, the holidays are here. This year, many Americans will flock to the Internet for their holiday shopping needs. Coresight Research predicts that in 2019, 83% of US consumers will shop online for holiday gifts.
And what’s not to love about online shopping? It’s very convenient! You can shop from your couch and find a great deal right at your fingertips.
But here’s the thing, cybercriminals want to ruin your holiday spirit. During the holiday season, hackers will try to swipe your credit card information or worst.
Don’t let these criminals dampen your holiday fun. Here are 10 online holiday shopping security tips to help keep you safe.
Make sure you’re buying from a real online address
Double-check the URL address before clicking on it. You see, hackers LOVE to create bogus shopping websites to trick users. These fake websites can infect your device the moment you arrive on them.
But that’s not the most dangerous aspect. The biggest area of concern is the checkout page.
When you complete the checkout process on a bogus website, you are giving the hacker your credit card information, name, and address. This opens you up to identity theft, credit card fraud, and future cybersecurity attacks.
How to spot a bogus website
- Don’t click, if it uses a strange URL, like “half-off-prada-bags.com”.
- Do the descriptions sound off? Any self-respecting online shop will have professional product descriptions.
- Are the prices are ridiculously low? If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably a bogus website.
- Does it have a horrible design? If it looks like it belongs in the early 00s, run away!
Only shop on secure shopping sites
Before you click “purchase”, make sure you are shopping on a site with an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate. An SSL is a standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a server and a viewer.
To know if a website has an SSL, the site’s URL should start with https://, and there should be a lock symbol in the address bar.
Use antivirus protection on your device
Antivirus isn’t just for work computers; you should also have it installed on your personal PCs. One of the most frequent tips on how to be safe online is to use a good, quality antivirus. Granted, it will not block everything. But antivirus will keep you safe against known malware.
Update your browser, antivirus, and operating system
A tale as old as time (or at least Internet-time). Unpatched or non-updated software is a frequent cause of malware infections. Why? Because updates help protect against the latest threat.
So, make sure you keep your browser, antivirus, and operating system up to date before online shopping.
Keep an eye on your bank account
Malicious hackers want your credit card data, and online stores are great places for them to get their hands on that information. And no company, no matter how big, is invulnerable to cyberattacks. Companies get hacked all the time. So, even if you did everything right, your credit card information could still get leaked.
For this reason, we urge you to periodically review your bank account and check up on any suspicious activity. Most bank accounts and credit cards have alerts that you can have sent to your phone or email alerting you of large purchases or other activity. Be sure to turn these features on.
Keep your shopping accounts secure with a password manager
Most online stores want you to create an account before purchasing an item. It’s easy to use the same password for every online store. But I urge you to NOT do that, and instead, get a password manager.
A password manager will not only help you generate a strong password, but it’ll also store it in your personal password vault. Not only that, but a password manager will also simplify and secure your login process. To learn more about password managers, follow this link.
Don’t fall for their tricks
Having good security commonsense will help you make smarter decisions online. If you combine these commonsense rules with security programs, your online safety will be better for it:
- Don’t click on any suspicious links or emails.
- Use strong and unique passwords.
- Report any email that seems fraudulent by clicking on the “flag as spam” button.
- Don’t reveal more personal information than you have to.
Don’t fall for phishing emails
Phishing attacks are fraudulent communications that appear to come from a reputable source. The goal of a phishing attack is to steal sensitive data, like credit card and login information. Or, to install malware on the victim’s machine.
The best defense against phishing attacks is end-user education and a comprehensive spam filter. But unfortunately, some phishing emails will make it to the inbox even with top-tier protection. So to learn how to spot a phishing email, click here.
Use a credit card, not a debit card
Credit cards have extra-legal defenses built in that make them safer to buy stuff with than debit cards. With a credit card, you aren’t liable if someone does fraudulent credit card transactions. On top of that, credit cards give you more leverage when it comes to disputing transactions with the seller.
Shop at websites you trust
And to close out our holiday online shopping security tips, shop at places you know and trust. If you aren’t familiar with a company, and the name sounds phishy, don’t buy from them. To play it safe, consider doing online shopping only with retailers you trust and have shopped with before. BW