E-commerce is growing year over year, and more Americans are buying everything from clothing to groceries online. According to a 2017 survey by BigCommerce and Square, 51% of Americans prefer to shop online, and about two in five online shoppers say they couldn’t live without it. After all, online shopping makes it easy to find the perfect gift, restock your pantry or even take advantage of a flash sale.
During the holidays, online shopping skyrockets. More than 80% of shoppers plan to buy holiday gifts online as compared to 77% who say they’ll buy in-store, according to a 2017 Forbes survey.
While online shopping is convenient for consumers, it also comes at a price: giving cybercriminals more opportunities to invade your privacy and steal your data.
Being aware of your online purchases and implementing security measures will help safeguard your identity and account information against online intruders. Below are eight tips to help minimize risk during your online shopping sprees.
Dedicated mobile apps by retail giants such as Target, Walmart and Amazon are less vulnerable than their website counterparts, according to a 2013 article published in PC Magazine. Websites are at risk for general browser attacks, whereas hackers need to launch dedicated cyber attacks created for mobile. Also, mobile app stores such as Apple and Google have “made mobile apps much safer for the end consumers,” the report notes.
Look for the Lock
Before entering your account information, make sure the website you are using is legitimate and secure. To do this, make sure you see “https” at the beginning of the site’s address and a lock symbol in the address bar. The “s” indicates that the site is encrypted and protected.
Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Do not make any purchases on an open network that does not ask for a password. Malicious hackers can target wireless connections and intercept almost anything that goes through the router, including emails, passwords, browsing history and credit card data. If you want to make a purchase while you are out and about, use your network provider over public Wi-Fi.
Watch Out for Fake Websites
Stick to official retailer websites. Beware of links and emails advertising deals that are too good to be true. Many of these scam offers will appear on social media and have strange or unfamiliar URLs such as “thebestonlineshopping.com.” If you’re interested, research the vendor and see if anyone else has taken advantage of the deal. The safest option is to use retailer-specific sites and apps like Walmart, Amazon, Target and other known companies. Fake websites can infect your device as soon as something is downloaded or they can prompt you to click on malicious links.
Use a Credit Card
Using a credit card instead of a debit card can minimize the damage done if the account is hacked. Credit cards typically have spending limits, whereas debit cards do not and are linked directly to your bank account. Credit cards are also safer because a debit card is linked directly to an account, it’s more difficult to recover stolen money.
Monitor Your Bank Account
Don’t wait until the end of the month to check your bank account. By keeping an eye on your bank account, you can detect fraudulent charges faster and immediately lock your account. If you spot a charge that looks out of the ordinary, report it right away.
Update Your Browser and Software
Make sure your browser and operations system is updated. Updates include the most recent security patches for your computer or smartphone. You may also enable your device to install updates automatically to avoid letting them slip through the cracks.
Use Strong Passwords
Use different passwords for different accounts, and create complex passwords that are less likely to be cracked by hackers. Using at least eight characters with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols is a good start. For more tips on creating a strong password, check out our infographic here.