How to keep your information out of the hands of cybercriminals
The holidays are here again which means lots of online shopping! Making sure that your information is safe from cybercriminals while you select just the right gifts for your loved ones can be challenging in our world. Cybercriminals thrive on taking advantage of people during the holidays. Here are a few tips to help you protect yourself while shipping online this holiday season.
1.) Only shop on sites you know
Always shop at reputable or well-known websites. If a deal looks too good to be true, it is. Also, it is very easy to clone the look and feel of a reputable website. A scam site will simply take your money and run. They may even keep and re-use your personal information or credit card information. Be sure to check your URLs and never click links in emails.
2.) Never give your credit card information to an unfamiliar site
If you find a new site that you feel is reputable enough but you still want to protect yourself make sure to use a payment service, such as Google Wallet or PayPal. Payment services of this nature offer more protection against fraud and do not give out your payment information when you make a purchase (such as your bank account number or credit card number).
3.) Make sure your connection is secure
Next to the address for the site you should see a small padlock icon indicating a secure connection to the site. The site’s address should begin with – https://. If you do not see that padlock, or you don’t see the ‘s’ at the end of http, or if you are alerted by your browser that you connection is not secure, do not buy! Leave the site immediately and find your gifts elsewhere. The padlock and the ‘s’ indicate that the site is secured and that your information is being encrypted to make it harder for a criminal to steal it. All reputable sites have these things in place.
4.) Never give out personal information
If a site is asking you for personal information odds are good they are looking to steal your financial information (bank account number or credit card number). You see this a lot on overseas deep discount sites on knockoff luxury brand items such as handbags, shoes, and watches.
5.) Keep records of your transactions
Always keep receipts and records of what you buy. Legitimate companies will often compensate you for any loss incurred due to fraud so having good records is important. You may also need the information for more than attempting to get your money back from getting scammed by cybercriminals – you may need it to replace something that was lost or damaged in shipping.
6.) Keep an eye on your statements
This time of year is always popular with scammers. Make sure to regularly check your bank and credit card statements and carefully flag any charges that you don’t recognize. The faster you get on top of fraud, the better your financial intuition will be able to help… plus there is a time limit to how far back you can dispute a charge.
7.) Never click links in unsolicited emails or download attachments
I say this one quite often but it is worth repeating – NEVER download an attachment or click a link in an email that you didn’t request or looks AT ALL suspicious. Email scams are incredibly popular for a reason – the work. Don’t let yourself become a victim. Emails can contain viruses, keystroke loggers, and more – all designed to invade your device and steal your personal information.
Cybercriminals are always coming up with new ways to steal your information – they will send spam emails, setup fake sites that mimic real ones, and more. It is good to stay diligent all year long but the holidays bring out a lot more criminals than other times of the year. If you plan on doing a lot of your shopping online be sure that you are purchasing from legitimate retailers. If you are worried that you may be scammed – shop locally with small businesses in your community instead of online.
No matter where you choose to shop for gifts, stay safe this holiday season.