The online shopping season is upon us and that means two things; larger credit card bills next month and security risks. While I can’t help you with the bills, I do have some online shopping security tips to help keep you safe while spending.
Make sure your PC is secure
Before you do anything online, you first need to make sure your computer is secure. You should check your security / antivirus software and make certain it is up to date. Then run a full or deep scan to make sure your system is clean before you transact any business online.
A common tool of the cyber-grinch is a key logger – software that captures keystrokes and analyzes them. When the key logger detects anything that looks like sensitive data it will automatically send that information to the wrong people.
Another important safeguard is to keep your browser, operating system and plugins like Java and Flash current, so be sure to check for and apply updates before shopping.
Shop Trusted Sites
Don’t buy stuff from sites you’ve never heard of. Stick with the big names or, at a minimum, do a little research on the smaller sites and see what others are saying about them. Bizrate.com is a good site for this type of research.
Avoid deals that seem too good to be true – they usually are. No one is really going to sell you a “wii U” for $99. These “too good to be true” ads are likely ploys to get you to visit a shady, third party site.
Look for the lock
Before you make a purchase, look for a little padlock icon in your web browser and make sure the padlock is in the locked position. This means that the site has secure socket layer (SSL) encryption to enhance security.
One way to double check if the padlock is real or not is to look at the URL. If it starts with HTTPS:// instead of HTTP:// this means it is a legitimate SSL site.
Credit, Not Debit
Credit cards give you the option to “charge back” fraudulent transactions to your account. Be sure to frequently check your statements to catch any unusual transactions and note that the craftier criminals will only charge small amounts in the hope that they go unnoticed.
Debit cards do not have a “charge back” feature and if money is stolen from your debit account, then it is gone for good.
A great option for shopping online is to use gift cards, or rechargeable credit cards.
3 quick tips
Here are three more tips to keep you safe this holiday season.
- Never shop over a public Wi-Fi connection
- Use official apps directly from the company when shopping from your mobile device
- Remember to use strong passwords when creating an account.
A lot of this boils down to common sense and instincts. If your gut is telling you something is fishy then it is best to stay clear.
Do you have additional tips? Let me know in the comments section.