Cyber Monday has come and gone and the holiday shopping season is upon us, with a staggering number of consumers planning to shop online across computers, tablets, and smartphones. According to the National Retail Federation, this year’s winter holiday spending totals will be around 639 million dollars- with the average consumer saying 46% of their shopping will be conducted online. So how do you make sure that your bank account and all your personal information is protected? Follow these tips to ensure maximum online safety when shopping:
- Protect your computer. Make sure that you have up-to-date antivirus/anti-spyware software and firewall running before you go online. While these aren’t common on cell phones- you can find mobile software if needed.
- Check your connection. Never pay for items if you’re working over an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. This leaves the network open to hackers who are looking to snoop into data being sent, as well as possibly access your personal files and system information.
- Search out security. When shopping, there are a few different ways you can tell if a site is secure. Look for sites with an HTTPS address as this indicates the site has taken extra steps to become security enabled. A padlock symbol should appear in the browser window frame when you log in or register. Finally, if your browsers are up-to-date, you’ll see the address bar or site owner name turn green.
- Instill strength in passwords. We’ve all heard that you shouldn’t use the same password for all your accounts. However, even when using a variety of passwords, make each one a mix of letter cases, numbers, and symbols. This raises their overall strength and makes them exponentially more difficult to hack.
- Value your personal information. Your personal information should hold value, just as your money does. Protect it- don’t just hand it out. Only fill out the required fields needed to make your purchase correctly. Also, when making a purchase online, be alert to the types of information being collected in order to complete the transaction. Asking for important data out of the norm, such as a social security number, is a red flag.
- Always log out. Merely closing your browser is not enough to properly shut down your session and maintain privacy over any information saved or registered (such as keeping a credit card on file). Log out of any active accounts, and then exit out of your browser.
- Check your statements. Despite all your best intentions to shop safely online, sometimes it’s just not enough. Check your credit card and bank account statements regularly after purchasing online. Make sure the right amounts are being charged or debited, and verify all charges were made by you and are not fraudulent.
- Stay Electronic. When making a payment to an individual, never transfer the money directly into their bank account. Use a secure payment site such as PayPal. This ensures money is transferred between two electronic accounts with no personal banking information being revealed.
As with most things, practice good judgment to keep your online shopping experience positive and to ensure you have a happy holiday season free of theft or fraud.