Do you remember the days before online holiday shopping? You had to get to stores before they closed - fighting traffic, weather, and holiday crowds - all to stand in line for ages. There was no guarantee the stores would even have what you needed, and you were probably too exhausted by then to check out their competitors.
All of that effort seems like the dark ages compared to laying on your couch in your pajamas, easily shopping away at any hour. 2019 online holiday sales are expected to total $123 billion, a growth of 16.2% over the year before. The convenience of online shopping is here to stay.
Unfortunately, the wonderful conveniences of online shopping sometimes come at a cost. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center had close to 300,000 online theft complaints in 2017. This resulted in losses of $1.4 billion. That’s not just an occasional hacking or phishing scam. That’s a wave of criminality that you’ll want to protect you and your family from.
Giving yourself a little cybersecurity doesn’t have to be difficult. Signal 88 Security has compiled a list of ways you can protect yourself from online fraud and give yourself some added peace of mind while completing your holiday shopping.
- Do all your online shopping through websites you recognize and trust. That doesn’t mean you have to stick with the corporate giants and ignore smaller boutiques, but do some investigating before you give over your credit card information. And no matter who you’re shopping with, make sure their site encrypts their transactions. Look for an “https” at the beginning of their URL (as opposed to “http”). Without that “s”, the site - and your data - isn’t secure.
- Beware of deals too good to be true. There are bargain-basement deals and then there are sales so low that they’re fishy. If prices seem shockingly low, be wary. These are also more apt to come to you via atypical shopping sources, like an unsolicited email or a Facebook post.
- Do your online purchasing at home or somewhere with a secure wi-fi. It might sound like a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, doing your holiday shopping while having a latte at your local coffee shop. But sending credit card (or any personal) information over a free public wi-fi is asking for trouble.
- Change your passwords. There are some differing thoughts on how often you should, but going into the holiday season is the perfect time to change them up. And be smart about what you change them to (in other words, it’s time to change if you’re using “password” as your password). You might also want to consider two-factor authorization for any online transactions for an added layer of protection.
- Always manually enter your credit card information. Yes, it’s convenient to store your credit card information with a frequently visited retailer (or even locally on your computer), but given the number of data breaches companies have experienced, you might not want to trust them to keep your information safe. The time saved entering your credit card’s digits are not worth the potential security risk.
- Check to see if there’s a tracking number for anything you order. This enables you to check on the delivery process and follow up in case there’s a problem. Almost all online merchants have this or work with a shipping service who does.
- Set aside one credit card that you exclusively use for online purchases. As you can imagine, limiting all online buying to one card makes it much easier to track any potential fraud. This also means that if there is a problem and you need to cancel the card, you’re not stuck without emergency credit while waiting for the replacement. Make that one card a credit card as opposed to a debit card. Credit cards usually offer more fraud protection, plus the bank can withhold payment on any disputed charges.
- Get in the habit of regularly checking your bank and credit card statements. It’s so easy to throw those pieces of mail away (or never consult your online statement), but just a quick check every time your statement arrives will save you heartache later. Finding any unauthorized transactions (or even simple errors) is much easier the earlier you report it.
Fraud prevention doesn’t have to be a struggle, and you shouldn’t have to limit your shopping online. But you should shop with a little common sense and vigilance. In the same way you know to keep an eye on your money and goods when shopping in public, adopt these tactics to keep your information protected while shopping in the virtual marketplace. Protect yourself from cybersecurity threats and give yourself a little peace of mind this holiday season.
Did we forget anything? Comment below to offer any additional insight or personal experience that can help your fellow online consumer.