The busy holiday season has arrived, bringing with it a flurry of activities, including parties, family gatherings, celebratory meals, and gift giving.
Shopping online for ourselves or the special people in our lives can be a fast and convenient way to spread holiday cheer, but it comes with challenges and risks. Online shopping has made it easier than ever for bad actors to steal personal data and financial information. While it takes discipline and time, both of which can be hard to come by this time of year, it is important to slow down and keep a watchful eye on your personally identifiable information (PII) and financial accounts.
Here are five easy steps to help you stay safe while shopping online:
Before shopping online, ensure your devices are secure.
- Software updates eliminate security vulnerabilities and fix performance issues. Keep software up to date on all internet-enabled devices.
- Enable automatic software updates, if applicable. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your devices and accounts.
Use strong passphrases.
- Use long, unique and complex passphrases for all accounts and devices.
- Never share passphrases over email, phone or text, especially in response to unsolicited messages.
Do business with trusted online retailers.
- Research vendors to confirm that they are trusted and reputable.
- Many companies send out marketing emails and texts for holiday sales. Scammers send out similar communications to deceive unwary shoppers. Only click on secure links from sources you trust.
Shop on secure networks and websites.
- Only shop on private, secure Wi-Fi connections. Never use public computers or public Wi-Fi networks to shop. If they are not secure, your PII could be compromised.
- Before clicking a link, hover over the link text to view the URL. Secure websites always start with ‘https’ and typically display a padlock icon in the left corner of the address bar. Only shop on trusted, secure websites.
When it’s time to pay, take extra care.
- When shopping on a site you don’t frequently visit, consider checking out as a guest so the retailer doesn’t unnecessarily retain your contact and/or payment information.
- Use only one credit card for holiday purchases and avoid using debit cards, if possible, as credit cards typically carry additional protections against fraudulent activity.
- Check your credit card and bank statements regularly.
- Save records of your online transactions, including the description of product bought, the online receipt, and any communications received from the seller.
For more information about safe online shopping, as well as additional resources, visit the following sites: