5 Ways to Stay Safe Shopping for the Holidays Online
Last year, some 81 million Americans spent about $6.6 billion on Cyber Monday alone. And if there’s one thing we know about fraudsters, it’s this: Where the money goes, they go.
That’s why it’s extremely important to know and follow safe online shopping behaviors – like these:
- Look for the green padlock. A closed green padlock in front of the web address displayed on your Internet browser means the website has a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection. This is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and browser. SSL instantly encrypts plain text like passwords and credit card numbers into data only the website and user can decrypt. Another key indicator of a secure website is a web address beginning with https:// instead of http://. Never purchase anything from an online site that doesn’t have a padlock and an “s.”
- Go to the source. Gift cards and electronics are some of the most popular holiday gifts. When purchasing these items, buy directly from the company that makes it or a trusted online retailer. Avoid eBay, social media ads and other third-party websites to ensure you are getting exactly what you are paying for. When using a new website for purchases, read reviews and see if other consumers have had a positive or negative experience with the site or the seller. Read return and other policies so you know what to expect if the purchase doesn’t go as planned.
- Avoid public WiFi. Only use private, password-protected WiFi connections to shop online. Public WiFi is typically unsecure, meaning anyone can see what you are doing online and steal your login information or your debit and credit card numbers. This is especially important to remember as more people turn to their mobile devices to shop.
- Only share what’s needed. When making a purchase online, be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete the transaction. Make sure it’s necessary for the vendor to request that information. Remember, you only need to fill out required fields at checkout.
- Keep an eye on your account. Go online regularly to look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card and checking accounts. Make sure you don’t see any fraudulent charges, even originating from legitimate sites like PayPal. If you do see something suspicious, contact your bank right away to get help addressing the issue and getting your money back.
Nothing takes the joy out of the holidays like falling victim to fraud. Give yourself a gift this holiday season by practicing safe online shopping behaviors.