The holiday season is upon us and making online purchases has increased in popularity. What better time to provide some tips for secure online shopping. (Some of these may sound familiar if you’ve been keeping up with my monthly updates!)
• Secure your mobile device and computer. Be sure to keep the operating system and application software updated/patched on all of your computers and mobile devices.
• Know and trust your online shopping merchants. Limit your online shopping to merchants whom you know and trust.
• Look for “https” when making an online purchase. The “s” in “https” stands for “secure” and indicates that communication with the Webpage is encrypted. If you submit your credit card information through an organization’s Website, be sure to look for indicators that the site is secure. Look for a padlock or key icon in the browser’s status bar and be sure that “https” appears in the Website’s address bar before making an online purchase. You should also make sure that your browser software is current and up-to-date.
• Password-protect your mobile device and computer. It’s the simplest and one of the most important steps to take to secure your mobile device and computer. If you need to create an account with the merchant, be sure to use a strong password. Use at least eight characters, with numbers, special characters, and upper- and lower-case letters. Adhere to the tenet, “a unique password for every unique site.”
• Do not respond to pop-ups. When a window pops up promising you cash or gift cards for answering a question or taking a survey, close it by pressing Control + F4 for Windows and Command + W for Macs.
• Avoid clicking on hyperlinks embedded in emails. The Better Business Bureau warns that legitimate businesses don’t send emails asking for follow-up financial information. If an email, even one that claims to be from a familiar retailer, asks you to visit an outside site, don’t do it-–it could be redirecting you to a scam site. Instead of clicking on a hyperlink, type in the Web address that you want to visit into your browser manually.
• Avoid scams and fraud. Don’t ever give your financial information or personal information over email or text.
• Do not use public computers or public wireless for your online shopping. Public computers may contain malicious software that steals your credit card information when you place your order. Additionally, criminals may be intercepting traffic on public wireless networks to steal credit card numbers and other confidential information, so avoid entering passwords and credit card numbers while in public hotspots.
• Pay by credit card. The safest way to shop on the Internet is to pay with a credit card rather than debit card, as credit cards are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act and may reduce your liability if your information was used improperly.