Tips for Secure Online Shopping

Cybercriminals are always looking for ways to interfere with your online shopping experience.  No matter what device you use - computer, smartphone, tablet, you need to protect your personal information to ensure you are shopping safely and securely online.  This holiday season and all year long keep the following tips in mind when purchasing online:

Secure your mobile device and computer. Keep your operating system and application software updated/patched on all computers and mobile devices. Be sure to check that your anti-virus/anti-spyware software is running and receiving automatic updates. Confirm that your firewall is enabled.

Shop with trusted merchants. Limit your online shopping to merchants you know and trust. If you have questions about a merchant, check with the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission.  Confirm the online seller's physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems.

Look for "HTTPS" when making an online purchase.  The "s" stands for "secure" and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted.  

Use strong passwords.  If you need to create an account with an online merchant, be sure to use a strong password.  Always use 10 or more characters, with numbers, special characters, and upper and lower case letters.  Use a unique password for every merchant site.

Use common sense to avoid scams. Do not give out your financial or personal information over email or text.  Information on many current scams can be found on the Internet Crime Complaint Center website at https://www.ic3.gov/crimeschemes.aspx and the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts.

Do not use public computers or public wireless for your online shopping. Public computers may be compromised with malicious software that steals your credit card information when placing an online order. Additionally, criminals may be intercepting traffic on public wireless networks to steal credit card numbers and other confidential information.

Pay by credit card rather than debit card. Debit cards do not have the same consumer protections as credit cards.  Credit cards are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act and may reduce your liability if your information was used improperly.

Keep a paper trail.  Save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the merchant.  Review your credit card statements as soon as you receive them to confirm that all charges are legitimate.  Contact your credit card company immediately if you have unauthorized charges on your account.

Review privacy policies. Review the privacy policy of the merchant website you are visiting. Know what information the merchant is collecting about you, how it will be stored, how it will be used, and if it will be shared or sold to others. 

If you encounter problems with an online shopping site, contact the merchant or the site operator directly.  You may also contact the following organizations:

 

For additional information about safe online shopping, please visit the following sites: