5 Tips for Safe Online Shopping

When shopping online, taking a few extra steps to ensure your information is secure will make your holidays more merry than scary. Consider the following five tips to keep your personal information safe when shopping this holiday season.

1. Shop online using websites you trust. Shopping online is a great way to get your holiday list taken care of; however, make sure you shop using legitimate websites. If you do a quick Google search for a special gift, try to navigate to a website you’re familiar with or that you’ve used before. If you don’t know the vendor, do a separate Google search about the business. Look for social media accounts, customer reviews, a Better Business Bureau rating, etc. Make sure you research any new websites before inputting your personal information.

2. Don’t purchase while using public WiFi. It can be tempting to connect to the free WiFi at a shop, hotel, restaurant, airport or public place. But be cautious when sending personal information (such as credit card numbers) over your smartphone or device while on a public wireless network because it may not be secure. To make sure your information is protected:

  • Only use encrypted websites while on public WiFi. Encrypted websites protect the information you send to and from that site. Look for a secure lock icon near the browser bar at the top of the page, or that the URL begins with https:// – the S is key as it indicates secure.
  • Use a secure wireless network, so all the information you send on that network is protected.

3. Avoid phishing scams in your inbox. With the holiday season comes an uptick in emails from stores offering special savings and discounts. It’s also a prime season for scammers to try and sneak into your inbox. Be wary of emails that come from stores you don’t regularly shop at or special coupons that are sent to your inbox from an unknown source. As a reminder, don’t open any files, click on links, or download programs from a sender you don’t know as it could expose your system to a virus or spyware that captures your passwords or other information.

4. Supply limited information when checking out. Keep a close hold on your personal information. When shopping online, pay using a card instead of giving out your account and routing information. Consider using a designated credit card for online purchases so you can safeguard that one account. Don’t give out your Social Security number without asking why they need it and how it will be protected. You can also ask if you can use a different form of identification.

  • Avoid phishing scams in your inbox. With the holiday season comes an uptick in emails from stores offering special savings and discounts. It’s also a prime season for scammers to try and sneak into your inbox. Be wary of emails that come from stores you don’t regularly shop at or special coupons that are sent to your inbox from an unknown source. As a reminder, don’t open any files, click on links, or download programs from a sender you don’t know as it could expose your system to a virus or spyware that captures your passwords or other information.
  • Supply limited information when checking out. Keep a close hold on your personal information. When shopping online, pay using a card instead of giving out your account and routing information. Consider using a designated credit card for online purchases so you can safeguard that one account. Don’t give out your Social Security number without asking why they need it and how it will be protected. You can also ask if you can use a different form of identification.
  • Create strong passwords. Use strong and unique passwords for your different accounts. This ensures that if one account becomes compromised, the rest of your accounts can’t also be accessed. Try to think of a phrase or word that is memorable to you. Then replace some letters with different characters and symbols to create a unique password. For example, blackfootrocks is the phrase. Now, add some variation to the letters: Bl@ckf00tRock$. Using numbers, capital letters and symbols the password is now strong and unique. You can also try using a password tool to manage your online accounts.

5. Create strong passwords. Use strong and unique passwords for your different accounts. This ensures that if one account becomes compromised, the rest of your accounts can’t also be accessed. Try to think of a phrase or word that is memorable to you. Then replace some letters with different characters and symbols to create a unique password.

For example, blackfootrocks is the phrase. Now, add some variation to the letters: Bl@ckf00tRock$. Using numbers, capital letters and symbols the password is now strong and unique. You can also try using a password tool to manage your online accounts.

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