From the convenience of one-click ordering to the lure of next-day delivery, online shopping has grown tremendously in the past few years, fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic. But online shopping isn’t just convenient for us and good for businesses, it’s good business for the fraudsters and cybercriminals. Scammers try to trick us into paying for goods we won’t receive or obtain our personal information for financial gain. So, what can you do about it? It’s important to take steps to protect yourself when shopping online.
With a few simple tips, you can enjoy the convenience of shopping online with peace of mind.
Online Shopping Tips
- Think before you click: Beware of emails, texts or other promotions that seem “off” or encourage you to urgently click on links. If you receive an enticing offer, do not click on the link. Instead, go directly to the company’s website to verify the offer is legitimate. If you can’t find it on their website, report the scam to your email provider as a phishing attempt. Remember: if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
- Do your homework: Fraudsters are fond of setting up fake e-commerce sites. Prior to making a purchase, read reviews to hear what others say about the merchant. Check trusted sources, like the Better Business Bureau, as well. In addition, look for a physical location and any customer service information. It’s also a good idea to call the merchant to confirm that they are legitimate.
- Consider your payment options: Using a credit card is much better than using a debit card; there are more consumer protections for credit cards if something goes awry. Or, you can use a third party payment service instead of your credit card. There are many services you can use to pay for purchases – like Google Pay — without giving the merchant your credit card information directly.
- Watch what you give away: Be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete your transaction. If the merchant is requesting more data than you feel comfortable sharing, cancel the transaction. You only need to fill out required fields at checkout and you should not save your payment information in your profile. If the account autosaves it, after the purchase go in and delete the stored payment details.
- Keep tabs on your bank and credit card statements: Be sure to continuously check your accounts for any unauthorized activity. Good recordkeeping goes hand-in-hand with managing your cybersecurity. Another tip for monitoring activity is to set up alerts so that if your credit card is used, you will receive an email or text message with the transaction details.
Basic Safety and Security Tips
- Keep a clean machine: Be sure that all internet-connected devices ‒ including PCs, smartphones and tablets ‒ are free from malware and infections by running only the most current versions of software and apps. These updates protect your devices form any new threats or vulnerabilities.
- Lock down your login: Create long and unique passphrases for all accounts and use multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible. MFA will fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics or a unique one-time code sent to your phone or mobile device.
- Use a secure Wi-Fi: Using public Wi-Fi to shop online while at your favorite coffee shop is tremendously convenient, but it is not cyber safe. Don’t make purchases via public Wi-Fi; instead use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or your phone as a hotspot. Or, save those purchases in your cart for later and wait until you’re home and on your own secure network.
Give the Gift of Peace of Mind
Purchasing an internet-connected device for a loved one? Don’t assume they know how to use it securely. Take a moment to teach recipients how to configure privacy and security settings, set up a strong password, and deactivate any features they don’t need. Don’t let your loved ones learn the hard way. If you give them a device, also give them the gift of peace of mind.