Online Holiday Shopping: Tips to Keep Your Information Secure

November 15, 2017

Online shopping continues to grow in popularity. In 2016, for the first time ever, shoppers bought more online than in stores.

Keep these tips in mind to help protect yourself from identity theft and other malicious activity while shopping online during the holiday season and throughout the year:

  • Don't ever give your financial information or personal information via email or text.

  • Watch out for fake package tracking emails and fake e-cards. These often come with malicious links or attachments designed to infect your device or steal your account information.

  • Know your online merchants.  Limit your online shopping to merchants you know and trust. Only go to sites by directly typing a known, trusted URL into the address bar instead of clicking on a link. If you are unsure about a merchant, check with the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission.

  • Pay by credit card, not debit card. Credit cards offer protections that may reduce your liability if your information is used improperly. Debit cards typically do not have the same level of protection. Also check your statements regularly.

  • Check your credit card and bank statements regularly. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately. Set up alerts, such as a text message for transactions over a certain dollar amount, and use alerts to spot signs of unusual activity. 

  • Look for "https" before logging in or entering any information online. Make sure web page addresses (URLs) begin with https, not http. The "s" stands for “secure" and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted. 

  • Don't auto-save your personal information. When purchasing online, you may be given the option to save your personal information online for future use. Consider if the convenience is really worth the risk. The convenience of not having to reenter the information is insignificant compared to the amount of time you would spend trying to repair the loss of your stolen personal information.

  • Don't use public wireless for your online shopping.  Criminals may intercept traffic on public wireless networks to steal credit card numbers and other sensitive information. Set your devices to "ask" before joining new wireless networks so you don’t unknowingly connect to an insecure hot spot.

  • Secure your home Wi-Fi.  To prevent eavesdroppers and data thieves, enable strong encryption on your home wireless network - WPA2 is recommended. Make sure you control who has administrative access to your home network, and that all users are required to authenticate with a strong password before connecting.

  • Be alert for charity donation scams.  Cyber criminals try to take advantage of people’s generosity during the holiday season and can use fake charity requests as a means to gain access to your information or computer/device. Don’t click on links in emails requesting donations. Contribute by navigating to the trusted address of the charity.

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