It's important to take steps to protect yourself when shopping online. Anything connected to the Internet, including mobile devices like smartphones and tablets need to be protected – especially during heavy use periods, like the holidays. Scammers and cybercriminals can target shoppers as well. Everyone should be on alert for emails that might get us to act quickly and click through links and open attachments. Be wary of emails about problems with your credit cards or an account or the status of online order. The bad guys know we are price sensitive when shopping online. Exercise caution when seeing and ad offer where the discount is way below normal. Being a safe and secure shopper starts with STOP. THINK. CONNECT.: Take security precautions, think about the consequences of your actions online and enjoy the conveniences of technology with peace of mind while you shop online. Remember these tips during all online purchases.
- Conduct research: When using a new website for purchases, read reviews and see if other consumers have had a positive or negative experience with the site.
- When in doubt, throw it out: Links in emails, posts and texts are often the ways cybercriminals try to steal your information or infect your devices.
- Personal information is like money: value it and protect it: When making a purchase online, be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete the transaction. Make sure you think it is necessary for the vendor to request that information. Remember, you only need to fill out required fields at checkout.
- Use safe payment options: Credit cards are generally the safest option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered.
- Don’t be disappointed: Read return and other polices so you know what to expect if the purchase doesn’t go as planned.
- Protect your $$: When shopping, check to be sure the site is security enabled. Look for web addresses with https:// indicating extra measures to help secure your information.
- Now you see me, now you don’t: Some stores and other locations look for devices with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth turned on to track your movements while you are within range. Disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use.
- Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots: Limit the type of business you conduct over open public Wi-Fi connections, including logging on to key accounts, such as email and banking. Adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your phone.
- Keep a clean machine: Keep all web-connected devices ‒ including PCs, smartphones and tablets ‒ free from malware and infections by running only the most current versions of software and apps.
- Lock down your login: Fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media.
- Make your password a sentence: A strong password is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember (for example, “I love country music.”). On many sites, you can even use spaces!
- Unique account, unique password: Having separate passwords for every account helps to thwart cybercriminals. At a minimum, separate your work and personal accounts and make sure that your critical accounts have the strongest passwords.