Updated September 1, 2016 . AmFam Team
There are so many great perks when it comes to holiday shopping online: the fun of browsing from the comfort of your own home, plus the beauty of not having to battle traffic to just name a few. Better still — if you do it right — you can save with online-only discounts and maybe even order free gift wrapping! But shopping online does come with a few security concerns that you should be on the lookout for.
Before you get online and start shopping, it’s important to know how your information can be captured by third parties. It’s even more important to know how to protect yourself from online threats like these. Here’s some tips on how to avoid fraud and safely shop online this holiday season.
Go with what you know. If you have a good history of ordering and purchasing with a website, you’re already ahead of the game. Knowing that your data has remained secure and the things you’ve bought have arrived on time is online-shopping-security-gold. Order what you can from known websites and help to reduce the risk of your credit card information getting into the wrong hands.
Look for the lock. Most cybercrimes happen when websites cut corners and hackers make their way into protected areas where data is stored. So, when you’re shopping online, protect your credit card information by visiting websites that have a secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption on the payment page. You may also see a padlock symbol on the payment page letting you know that your shopping experience will be safe.
Avoid public Wi-Fi, or install a VPN. The personally identifiable information you transmit over coffee shop Wi-Fi can be captured by third parties and later, hackers can log in as you and wrack up huge purchases — on your credit card. So steer clear of sipping on your pumpkin spice latte in the café around the corner when making purchases, and save yourself some big headaches. If you really need to purchase over public Wi-Fi, you’re best to install a virtual private network (VPN) which encrypts everything you send and receive from your phone or device. Take a look online for apps or instructions on setting up a VPN to stay safe while shopping away from home.
Go mobile. Good news for mobile shoppers! Mobile apps provided by the retailer tend to be more secure and are often easier to use than their websites. And many offer deals only available to customers that have installed their app.
Statements. Reading your credit card or banking statements closely will alert you to any unauthorized purchases. If you see anything questionable on your statement, get in touch right away. Many cards have a number to call right on the back if you suspect any trouble.
Purchase power. Double-checking the price, shipping, taxes and other fees before you click “purchase” is always a good idea. It’s also smart to look at the return policies in case your purchase isn’t quite what you expected.
Most online hacking issues result from people not reviewing their statements or credit rating frequently. If your identity is stolen, more than just your credit cards can be at risk. Hackers have been known to fraudulently change addresses and set up checking accounts that they’ll later exploit. Here’s how to help keep your ID safe.
Questionable clicks. The last thing you need during the holiday season is a phishing scam disguised as a discount for online shopping. If you receive an unsolicited email with a link, your best bet is to avoid clicking. Instead, check out the company’s website and see if the offer is legit.
Keep your personal information private. The savvy online shopper gives out as little personal details as possible. Rarely will a website require private information from you, so there’s no reason to give your Social Security Number or birthdate for online shopping. If you have forgotten your password, a good website will offer two-factor authentication. This is a method of getting you logged back in by having you to input a code that’s been texted or emailed to you. It’s another layer of protection that tells you this website cares about your security.
Ramp up your passwords. You may want to consider using different passwords for each site as an added layer of online shopping protection. Choosing passwords with a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols is key for avoiding ID theft when shopping online. Here’s more great advice on building a strong password to protect your identity.
Keeping these online shopping tips in mind will help you avoid ID theft and fraud, so you can shop with ease and enjoy a joyous holiday season. Contact your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) and get ID theft protection coverage that can really help you if your identity is compromised. You’ll celebrate the holidays with more peace of mind and your online shopping experience will be all the more merry.
This article is for informational purposes only and based on information that is widely available. This information does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. You should contact a professional for advice specific to your situation.