With the holiday season right around the corner, this week and the beginning of next week mark some of the busiest shopping days of the year. Over the past several years, shoppers have increasingly favored shopping online to standing in the mass crowds at the malls during the holiday season. In fact, the National Retail Federation’s latest survey states that nearly 80% of holiday shoppers (183.8 million people) plan to shop on Cyber Monday. The truth around the Target hack which happened in the holiday season last year has lead all of us to realize that we must be safe while we are shopping online.
Optimize Your PC’s Security Settings
Before hopping online, make sure that your systems security patches are all installed and that you are running a solid malware and anti-virus. In addition to these steps, make sure that you browser and any plugins you have installed are also up-to-date.
Use Familiar Sites
Start with using a trusted site rather than shopping through a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead to astray, especially after the first few pages of results. Beware of misspellings in the top-level domains of the sites that you are using. An example of this would be if you were looking for Target.com and wound up at Target.net.
Use a Credit Card Instead of a Debit Card
Credit cards allow you to minimalize the damage if someone were to intercept your payment information online. Additionally, you generally have more options for recourse when someone intercepts your credit card information, where as your debit card is directly linked to your bank account and can cause more issues.
Look for the Encryption Lock in the Checkout Area
Never buy anything online from a site that doesn’t have SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption installed. You’ll know whether or not this is installed because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://). Se this picture example:
Never ever give out your credit card information to someone via an email. Ever.
Don’t Give Out Too Much Information
When shopping online, make sure that you are careful about what information you give out. No online retailer needs your birthday or your social security number to do business. However, if cyber criminals get their hands on this information in combination with your credit card info, significant damage can be done. Remember – the more they know, the easier it is for them to steal your identity.
Check Your Statements
Especially during the holiday season, you should check your bank statements regularly. Don’t wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. If something does go awry, the sooner you can report it, the less damage that can be done. Make sure that sites you frequent are even charges that you can explain, such as iTunes and PayPal. In the event of a problem, you typically have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer, after that you could be liable for the charges anyway.
Remember to stay safe this holiday season with these tips from our experts. And from our family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Shopping!