While retailers have made online shopping easy for consumers, it has also made them more vulnerable to cyber theft. You do not have to look hard to find a breach in crucial data. Whether it is the Zappos breach, Target, or other popular online stores, these kinds of breaches are everywhere. Though there is no way to completely stop fraud and identity theft from happening while shopping online, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself.
- Use a VPN to make purchases – Whether you are on a home pc, tablet, or mobile device, using a VPN will add an extra layer of protection to your shopping. That is especially important when on the go. Try to avoid using public WiFi to shop. If for some reason you can’t, using a VPN is crucial to protect your privacy.
- Provide minimal information – If at all possible, avoid giving too much information to retailers or others.
- Try to stay with familiar/reputable companies – Finding the ultimate gift for your friend or loved one can be tricky during the holiday season. If you don’t already know and trust the company, we suggest doing a some research before you purchase anything from them. Sometimes it’s worth paying a little extra to buy from a site like Amazon, Walmart, Zappos, or Best Buy.
- If you can, use a credit card with buyer protection – If something does not go as expected or the gift you get is not what you thought it would be, some credit cards have buyer protection. That is also helpful to stop you from having to pay for fraudulent purchases.
- Check your credit card statements often – If you buy something from a scam site, US laws say that the credit card company has to reimburse for any fraudulent charges.
- Use a virtual credit card number – If you are not familiar with these, they are great. Some banks offer you the ability to use a temporary card that expires quickly and has a set amount on it. That way, you are not providing the retailer with your actual card number. It is definitely useful to mitigate damage should the number get stolen.
- Think about setting up another email account – The purpose of doing that is to try to minimize the shopping emails you get in your normal account. It will help you quickly identify any extra purchases as well as keeping gifts a surprise.
- Find a secure website and verify the site address – Verify there are no misspellings in your web address. To make sure it is secure, you will want to look for websites that begin with HTTPS instead of HTTP. The S indicates the site is secure. You will also notice a lock symbol in the web address bar of your browser.
- Create complex and original passwords – This is a big problem no matter what time of year you are shopping. People that use easy passwords and reuse them across multiple websites are much more likely to get their accounts compromised. For more information about secure passwords, be sure to check out our post on passwords.
- Know how to get help – If something does not look right about the website, it might be fraudulent. You may be able to find information in the US by visiting USA.gov, Action Fraud in the UK, and Scam Watch in Australia.
Though these steps won’t completely protect your against cybercriminals, they are a step in the right direction. Please follow our tips to stay safe shopping online and have a happy holidays.