Tis the season to be safe when shopping online
After a long year, the holiday season is a welcoming time for millions of Americans. This is the time to buy holiday gifts, book vacation tickets, and make other necessary preparations online. Nearly a quarter of all online shopping is done between November 1st and December 31st. And during this period, total online holiday sales amount to $123 billion. With so much money going around, hackers and frauds are lurking in the shadows. From people looking to intercept your credit card information to fraudulent e-commerce stores looking to put a dent in your wallet, it’s always a good idea to practice internet security during the holidays. Just in 2017 alone, close to 300,000 online theft complaints were recorded by the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. If this isn’t scary enough, losses of $1.4 billion were reported along with these complaints. Despite the risks out there, you can still protect yourself against cybercrime by practicing important safety precautions. Prevent thieves from party pooping on your holiday spirit by following these safety practices. 1. Opt for websites you’ve used before During the holiday season, 83% of U.S consumers make an online purchase. You can avoid falling victim to theft by only shopping at websites you’ve used before and that you trust. If you wish to try something new, consult friends and family and ask them if they’ve used a particular website that you’re thinking of shopping from. You should also carry out due diligence on any unfamiliar websites you come across. Check the company’s social media presence, customer reviews, and any history of complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Another good idea is to check the physical address of the company (if it doesn’t have on, it’s likely a fraudulent business). With background research, you can minimize your risk of falling prey to a scam. 2. Always shop across a secure internet connection Not only are fake companies lurking in the shadows, but cybercriminals are also preparing to intercept your sensitive data across the internet. For proper internet security during the holidays, always shop using a secure internet connection. This means avoiding shopping over Public Wi-Fi or other unsecured networks. While you may look through new TVs over your local coffee shop’s internet connection, don’t click “buy” or enter any personal data until you get back to secure Wi-Fi access. You should also avoid logging in to your bank account, credit card statement, or other sensitive data using a public computer. You may forget to correctly log out and end up being compromised. 3. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is That deal you saw for a brand new $20 computer definitely sounds tempting, but is it real? While Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer great deals for holiday shopping, beware of unrealistic prices. Some websites parade unreal discounts but may not even have these items in stock. They may simply be decoys set up to gather your credit card information. When looking for a good deal, compare prices across various websites and physical stores. Make sure the deal is realistic enough for the original value of your product. 4. A strong password is your first line of defense When shopping online, securing your account is one of the most important steps you can take. A weak password can be easily hacked and the person will have access to your credit card information (as well as your home address). There are several important elements that define a strong password. These include having at least 10 characters, using both uppercase and lowercase letters, and using numbers and symbols. When practicing internet security during the holidays, avoid passwords that contain personal elements (such as the names of loved ones, birth dates, or favorite colors). Simply put, one shouldn’t be able to easily guess your password. You should also avoid using the same password across multiple websites. 5. Double check before double clicking Email marketing has become big in e-commerce, and you can expect a flurry of emails in your inbox during the holiday season. However, emails may also contain malicious links that redirect you to phishing websites. These links may also install malware or ransomware on your computer. To remain safe online, don’t click on any suspicious links in your email. Also, avoid downloading-or-opening any attachments from unknown senders. 6. Use credit cards with liability protection Luckily, many financial institutions recognize the risks that online shoppers face during the holidays. Inquire if your credit card offers liability protection in case you fall victim to a scam. Many credit cards offer $0 liability to online shoppers who report a scam in a timely fashion (often within two business days). For proper internet security during the holidays, make sure you have liability protection on both your credit-and-debit cards this holiday season.