Holiday shopping has changed over the years. Many people – about 60% of shoppers according to the 2018 Deloitte holiday retail survey – prefer to avoid the crowded malls and department stores and shop from home (or anywhere) online. You may feel safe making purchases on your computer in your comfy pajamas. But you are just as likely to get your money stolen online as you are from a purse snatcher at the mall. Before you get UPS to knock on your door bearing gifts, here are some tips for safe online shopping.
Secure Your Computer Like You Secure Your Car
You wouldn’t leave your packages in plain view in your unlocked car. Shopping using public WiFi or using WiFi that is not password protected puts your information out on the public domain.
Don’t leave your computer unprotected from viruses. Hackers can steal the information you put into your computer and in turn, use it to give themselves a happy holiday season. Make sure your anti-viral software is up-to-date. If you have questions, maybe you would be safer shopping in the mall.
Look for the Signs and Symbols
Secure websites have a padlock symbol right before the website address. Click on the padlock and you will receive information that tells you if the site is secure, who owns the site and how many cookies the site has. Some hackers have learned how to mimic this symbol so it’s not a 100% guarantee the site is safe. Also, check the website address itself. A secure site begins with https://. By the way, the “S” stands for secure.
Stick With Who You Know
Your search for the perfect watch for your father has led you to a site you don’t know. The site has all the right signs and symbols, but you still feel uneasy. Trust your gut. You will be better off paying a little more for that watch and feeling safe than worrying about your credit information.
Use Your Phone for More Than Selfies
Your mobile phone is a safer way to shop online. Most large retailers have apps and let’s not forget the largest online retailer of all – Amazon. Using the tiny keyboard on your phone may be frustrating but it can be safer than using your laptop. Be old-fashioned and use the phone to make a call. Just three decades ago that was the only way to order a package unless you count sending in orders from a catalog.
Most of us will use our debit and credit cards more during the holiday season than any other time of the year. Keep an eye on your account. Sign up for mobile banking if your financial institution offers it so that you can check your accounts from anywhere. If you spot an unusual charge, call your bank immediately. File a police report. The good news is your financial institution should have a policy in place to reimburse you for any money that is stolen.
Are you shopping online this holiday season? How are you protecting yourself or have you been scammed? Tell us your story in the comment section below.