Shopping online is easy, convenient and gives you access to all of the best deals that are available. You can quickly comparison shop, receive fast shipping, easily return unwanted items and purchase anything you need. Online security has come a very long way, however you still need to be aware of the site that you are on.
Phishing scam sites that are extremely similar to legitimate sites are a real threat and you must be cautious. During busy shopping seasons such as the months prior to Christmas, scammers are working hard to steal your money and rob you of your identity. Take all of the necessary precautions and read these tips to stay safe during any online shopping experience:
- Don’t give away ALL of your information. You do not need to provide your social security number or identification to make a purchase. If a scammer can access your personal information and your credit card number, it can cause a lot of problems. Give the least amount of information possible and stay safe.
- Install a Strong Anti-virus Program on Your PC. Sometimes you can pick up viruses including Trojan horse malware which can mine your passwords and other personal information. Erradicate those viruses with a decent anti-virus program.
- Shop on Familiar Web Sites. Use trusted sites instead of searching for sites on a search engine. Search results after the first page or two can lead to scam sites or less trusted sites. Big name sites are safe and so are the online versions of major retailers. Look out for misspellings of top level domain names, this is known as phishing.
- Use Very Strong Passwords. You can never be reminded enough to ensure that the passwords that you use a not hackable. With online banking and shopping it is important to use complicated passwords and change them often. Use a password that contains sentence case, upper case, numbers and symbols.
- Look for the Security Lock Symbol. Never make a purchase with your credit card on a site that does not have SSL encryption (secure sockets layer). These URLs will begin with HTTPS:// and you should see a small locked padlock icon in your status bar. Never send your credit card or banking information through an email. Secure payment sites such as Paypal are a great way to securely pay with your credit card for goods and services.
- Review Credit Card and Bank Statements. You should go online on a regular basis to view the electronic statements for your credit card. Look for any charges that could be fraudulent (you don’t recognize the name of the merchant or the amount). If you see anything that does not look right, call your credit card company right away to alert them. You have 30 days to provide your bank or credit card company with any problems, so don’t make a payment until you are able to fully view your statements for accuracy. Once a payment has been made you could be liable for those charges, even the fraudulent ones.
- Make Your Wi-Fi private. If you are out in public and are using some type of Wi-Fi connection, you need to protect yourself with a VPN (virtual private network) connection. Use only familiar networks and never send personal information over an unsecured network connection.
- Use Your Own Computer. It is always a bad idea to utilize a public computer to purchase anything online. Always log out if you are using a public computer and be careful if you plan to enter in any credit card information because someone could be standing right behind you recording that information. Be completely aware of your surroundings and make certain that you are safe when you disclose any information. If you must give out credit card information in public, sit with your back to the wall and hold your card so no one can easily view it.
- Be Cautious with Purchasing Gift Cards. When it comes to gift cards, second hand is never good, particularly if you want to buy gift cards from websites such as eBay. The major problem with this is that you may be purchasing a gift card that does not contain much funds on it. Scammers tend to auction off spent or low fund gift cards for full price, so purchase your gift cards directly from the source that you want to purchase from.
- Too Great of a Deal to be Real? Whenever you see a deal that is just too good to be true, pay attention to your gut instinct. Free offers are usually not “free” after all once you read the fine print and you want to be certain that you are getting exactly what you pay for when you shop. Many of these “deals” are simply a phishing scam to obtain your credit card information. Avoid them at all costs. If you feel skeptical about something, there is usually a good reason for it.
- Shop with your Smartphone. You can install specific shopping apps on your phone that are from specific stores which will allow you to make the purchases that you want to in a safe manner. The best part is that you don’t even need to go to the website of that store or go to the physical store.
Shopping online is becoming extremely popular because it is a way to access all of the items that you need or want without ever having to leave the comfort of your home. Always be careful and follow all of these important safety tips to protect your identity and your financial information. Once your identify has been stolen it can take a lot of time, work and effort to clear your name and remove all financial charges attributed to your credit card. This can take many years and plenty of heartache, so always know exactly who you are handing your financial information over to. Always be safe online and it will lead to great shopping experiences.