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6 Tips for Safely Shopping Online for the Holidays

90759443_m_edited2-optimizedAs we make our way into the holiday season and start thinking about what we're buying everyone, it’s important to heighten our awareness of who we’re giving our credit card information to. Don’t let cyber criminals ruin your holiday celebrations! Take a minute to remind yourself, your friends, and your family how to keep personal information safe while online shopping for holiday gifts.

1. Do research before purchasing from unfamiliar sites.

You found the perfect gift for just the right price, the only problem is, you’ve never heard of the site before. The first thing to remember is that if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. But if it seems reasonable, there are a few things you should check before handing over your credit card info:

  • Does the URL start with https as opposed to http? Websites with https are more secure from outside attempts to steal your information, but be aware that scammers can still create sites that begin with https.
  • Search for reviews for the business on third-party sites, like Google or the BBB. Legitimate businesses should have accumulated a good amount of positive reviews over time.
2. Does the information they’re requesting make sense for completing your purchase?

Legitimate businesses aren’t going to ask you for personal information that isn’t required to fill your order. No one needs to know your birthday or where you were born in order to ship you a pair of socks. Keep in mind that you don’t have to fill out form fields that aren’t required. If they request any information that seems weird, make your purchase from a different company.

3. Don’t use debit cards to buy things online.

Your debit card takes money directly from your bank account, whereas a credit card or third-party payment service (like PayPal), are further removed from your money. Credit card companies and payment services tend to have more safeguards in place to protect against fraud.

It is especially important during the holidays to keep an eye on your credit card statements. This time of year you're using your credit card more often than usual and making purchases that aren't your standard everyday purchases. The sooner you see something that is not a purchase you made, the faster you dispute charges, and the easier it is for credit card companies to do something about it.

Also make sure you understand the retailer's return policy, in case what you receive was not what you were expecting.
4. Beware of Malicious Emails and Fake Promotions.
If you have not heard of a company that’s appearing in your inbox — or never opted-in to be emailed by them — the best thing to do is mark the email as spam and delete it without opening. Even when you receive emails and promotions from reputable companies you did subscribe to, check the links before clicking. Email addresses can always be spoofed and fake emails can be sent out with malicious links. It's better to take the extra 10 seconds to check links, than to end up with a malware infection.
5. Use unique passwords for each online account.

If one store has a data breach, you don’t want someone to gain access to multiple accounts. It's also much easier to change the password for one account in the case of a data breach, than multiple accounts using the same password.

If you get an emailed request to update a password or notifying you that someone tried to access your account, instead of clicking any links in the email, go directly to the website and take care of securing your account right at the source. 

Do not use usernames, emails, or passwords associated with your professional accounts. Experiencing a cyber attack on your personal computer is bad enough, opening up your whole business to hackers is worse. 

6. Watch out for scam calls from your “bank.”

With higher rates of cyber crime happening around the holidays, criminals also enjoy taking advantage of customers’ anxiety. Remember that a bank will never ask for account information when notifying you of possible fraudulent activity. The best thing you can do is call your bank directly from their number posted publicly online. Do not reach out to your bank by calling a number left in your voicemail or an email.

Now that we’re prepared – Let’s start shopping!

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Topics: Security Threats, Trends