When the holiday season comes around, everyone is in the spirit of giving back and joining in on the festivities. This usually spurs an increase in spending and holiday shopping, most of which happens online. According to comScore and UPS’ online shopping survey, shoppers are now making 51% of their purchases online with 44% of smartphone users making purchases through their devices. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are when retailers and online websites are offering the best deals of the year, but in the search for the biggest discount, or perfect gift, buyers often overlook or forget to take into account online safety precautions.
Cybercriminals take advantage of the holiday season to intercept purchases and steal credit card information. They will steal information through the creation of fake websites and spam emails containing attention-grabbing deals or greeting cards. The U.S. Government recently announced that 45% of Americans have scaled back their online activity due to fears of security and privacy. Although the fear of identity theft and stolen credit card information is there, we want to equip you with actionable tips to continue to use the convenience of online shopping during the holidays.
10 Ways to Protect Your Information Online
Here are 10 ways to protect your information when shopping online:
- When shopping online, always use your credit card instead of your debit card for added protection and enhanced security.
- Use third-party payment processors like PayPal, Amazon or Google Wallet to pay for your online transactions.
- Look for the lock. Check to see if the site is using a secure certificate and is employing SSL to secure your data in transit. This can often be done by looking at the address bar in your Internet Browser. Google Chrome users can often see a little lock that will show whether a site is using SSL by displaying a green lock to the left of the web address.
- Safeguard your identity. Don’t give out your social security number or your birth date; retailers and online shopping stores do not need this information to conduct business.
- Check the company and brand’s reputation and validity. Use websites such as Ripoffreport.com to check if other people have reported the site as fraudulent and visit the Better Business Bureau to check for a company’s validity.
- Be on the spam email alert. If you receive any email greetings from people you know, it might be best to first contact the sender and ask if they, in fact, sent the email.
- Make sure to keep up with updates on your computer so all the latest security patches are applied, including Flash and Java extension updates.
- When performing updates, always make sure to go to the actual website when possible so you don’t accidentally install a fake or potentially malicious updates.
- Refrain from using unknown Wi-Fi connections to make online purchases. Make sure to always use a secure, login-protected Wi-Fi hotspot.
- Always check your statements. Go online regularly during the holiday season and check your credit card activity for any fraudulent charges.
Tip: Use a specific credit card for online purchases only to keep an easy track of all charges.
The most important thing to remember is that you can never be too cautious. At A-LIGN, we deal in online safety all the time and we want everyone to have a safe and happy holiday season. In order to best protect yourself, stay alert, be proactive about checking for security when shopping online and make sure emails you receive are indeed from those that sent them!