The months that make up the end-of-the-year holiday season see the biggest increase in online shopping, year after year. Customers are taking advantage of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday shopping deals. Some are splurging in order to treat themselves, and some are getting a head start on Christmas gifts. It’s the season of giving, but for others, this has become the season to take.
If you are shopping online, here are eight ways that you can increase your online protection as you continue to shop during the holidays.
1. DO use only one credit card (preferably the one with the most rewards)
Using a credit card when shopping online is a pretty safe bet for a number of reasons. More security protections are placed on credit card, and you are able to limit the damage that is caused should your information be stolen. It’s easier to cancel and deal with one stolen credit card than it is to do so with three.
2. DON’T use a debit card
Between credit and debit cards, debit cards have less security protections offered than credit. When used online, and if stolen online, your money will be gone faster when using a debit card, and it will be harder to get back. If debit is all you can spare, consider using a third-party payment processor (like PayPal) that can give you a little more protection.
3. DO track your purchases
Whether you use a credit or debit card, make sure you track your purchases. Smart criminals, should they gain access into your account, will not take out large amounts. Instead, they’ll take small, unnoticeable amounts of money from you, and it could be too late before you realize. Having a record of all of your purchases will allow you to immediately see when something is off on your account.
4. DON’T log into public wireless hotspots
While they may be super convenient to check your Facebook, using a public hotspot to order anything online can be very dangerous. There is no guarantee from the host of the hotspot that your information will not be shared with others who are connected. Plus, there is a higher chance that someone is able to hack into the server and gather information as they please on a public connection than a private one. So, avoid coffee house shopping if you can, just to be safe.
5. DO be wary of the “too good to be true” ads
It is common during the holiday season to see ads listing amazing, and borderline ridiculous, discounts on popular items. Yes, some of the ads may be legitimate. Still, if you get the feeling that a certain deal sounds too good to actually be a real thing, you may be right. Go with your gut and avoid following those ads, as they might lead you to unsecure sites, or open up the security on your computer.
6. DON’T enter into contests
Pop up ads are a no-go, especially during the holiday season. If you see one claiming that you’ve won the latest iPhone, there’s a high chance that “Clicking Here to Claim Your Prize” may actually win you a nasty virus on your computer. Instead, ignore any flashy side ads and stick to what you had already planned.
7. DO check for the “s”
Before you enter any financial information on a certain page, make sure the site is secure. This is easy to check—if the URL begins with “https” instead of “http,” then you are safe. There may also be a lock symbol near the URL that symbolizes a secure site as well.
8. DON’T follow links (from anywhere)
According to research done by the security software firm Trend Micro, 91% of cyber-attacks started with criminals spear-phishing emails. Advertisements coming in through your email, popping up while you shop, or drifting in while you review your bank statements cannot be fully trusted during the holiday season. Instead of clicking the advertisement while it is in front of you, type it into your browser. This way you know that you are going directly to the website you are interested in seeing.
Shopping online during the holidays is not a new phenomenon, which is why you must be careful when doing so. With the advancements in technology that we see day-to-day come even more advancements in cybercrime. Understanding the ways you can control your cyber security and reduce your chances of being attacked on cyberspace will make your next online shopping experience that much more enjoyable.