With the holiday season fast approaching, online shopping has become an increasingly popular way to check off your gift list. The convenience and vast array of choices make it a preferred option for many. However, as you hunt for the perfect presents and the best deals, it's crucial to keep cybersecurity in mind. October is also Cyber Security Awareness Month making it the perfect time to highlight some essential do's and don'ts to protect yourself while shopping online.
DO - Shop from Home: One of the simplest yet most effective ways to stay safe online is to shop from the comfort of your own home. Hackers can easily access public Wi-Fi connections, making it safer to make purchases from your secure home network. Avoid making purchases while connected to airports, hotels, or other public hot spots.
DON'T - Trust Social Networking Site Deals: Deals shared on social media sites may seem enticing, but they can be deceptive. Most URLs on social media platforms are shortened, making it challenging to distinguish legitimate from fraudulent websites. Use these deals as tips, but always go directly to the retailer's site to verify offers.
DO - Download an Anti-Phishing Toolbar: Invest in an Anti-Phishing toolbar to help identify fraudulent websites. Many reliable options are available for free, adding an extra layer of protection to your online shopping experience.
DON'T - Use Your Personal Email Address: Consider setting up a separate email address dedicated to retailer communications. This way, you can still receive and review coupons or offers, but if this email address is compromised, it won't affect your personal or business emails.
DO - Select Sellers Carefully: When searching for products, use trusted retailers' websites or convenient price-comparison sites. Always check for "https://" in the URL to ensure your information is transmitted securely. Never make a purchase from a site lacking an SSL certificate.
DON'T - Be a Victim of Bogus Scams: If a deal seems too good to be true, it likely is. Scam sites may ask for credit card information or direct funds transfer, often through unsolicited emails. Even if the email appears legitimate, go directly to the retailer's site to browse deals instead of clicking email links.
DO - Pay with Credit Cards: Opt for credit cards instead of debit cards for online purchases. Most credit cards offer a $50 liability limit for fraudulent purchases if reported within two days. After two days, the liability increases to $500. Banks may have varying rules, but credit cards generally provide more protection than debit cards.
DON'T - Wire Money to Sellers: Never wire money for online purchases, even if you're buying from an auction site. Using a credit card allows you to dispute fraudulent charges and provides a layer of security.
DO - Regularly Check Credit Card Bills: Monitor your credit card accounts regularly and set up email or text notifications for all purchases. Keep online receipts in a separate folder for easy cross-referencing.
DON'T - Provide Excess Information: While retailers may request your name, address, phone number, and credit card number, never disclose your driver's license number, social security number, or bank routing numbers. Any site asking for this information is likely fraudulent.
DO - Shop Using Your Tablet or Smartphone: If you prefer shopping through apps, ensure they have minimal access to your device's information. Say no when prompted to remember passwords, as this could be risky if your device gets lost or stolen.
DON'T - Fall for Gift Card Scams: If an email promises a gift card but requests your credit card or banking information, delete it immediately. Legitimate retailers will never ask for such sensitive information.
As the holiday season approaches, the allure of online shopping becomes even stronger. However, safeguarding your personal and financial information should be a top priority. By following these do's and don'ts, you can greatly reduce your risk of falling victim to online fraud. Remember, it's always better to be safe than sorry. Happy shopping!