‘Tis the season to be… online shopping.
The hustle and bustle of everyone’s favorite season never fails to pick up its pace… With the time between Thanksgiving and winter holidays seeming shorter every year, it’s no wonder jack-o-lanterns share shelf space with tree ornaments and Menorahs.
As the years progress, so do the number of shoppers choosing to trade long lines and at-capacity parking garages for the convenience of online shopping. Perusing an endless catalog of items from the comfort of your couch is hard to beat when the alternative can leave you with sub-zero elements and aggressive consumers. Moreover, shopping at your fingertips when wrapped with online promotions, effortless price scouting, and free shipping after a $50+ purchase make choosing the virtual shopping cart a “no-brainer.”
Yet, as the popularity of online shopping soars, so do the risks of scammers and hacktivists gaining access to your financial or personal identifiable information (PII).
To keep your online shopping merry, we isolated tips to be mindful of as you fill your digital cart.
9 tips for safe online holiday shopping
- WiFi access. We’ll start with the very basic concept of how you choose to connect to the internet before heading to your retailer of choice. Using publicly accessible WiFi networks, like the complimentary ones provided by coffee shops and airports, are easily compromised by cyber thieves. We’ve stressed the importance of thinking twice before connecting to these unsecured networks… but network security becomes crucial when financial or sensitive information comes into play. Before heading to Amazon, make sure your device is connected securely!
- Check for updates. Another basic, yet simple way to secure your online shopping ventures. Regularly check your Operating System (OS), internet browsers, and antivirus software for any available updates or patches. When apps and browsers are running on their latest release, they are equipped to help prevent your information from being compromised. Turn on any options that entail automatic downloading or checking of latest updates.
- Antivirus software. Securing your stationary or mobile devices with best-in-class antivirus/anti-malware applications will help eradicate any unwanted trojans or viruses that could keylog or otherwise gain access to sensitive information. PC Magazine recommends McAfee, Norton, and Webroot as the top three performing software for 2017. Like we mentioned earlier, no matter the software you choose, regularly check to ensure the latest version and updates are installed.
- “S” is best. It’s easy to see if a website is running SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) by scanning the URL—located in the address bar at the top of your browser window—to see if the website’s domain is preceded by “HTTPS://” (much like the one you’re on right now). Only websites with this encryption based level of security should win your trust when it comes to your financial or personal information.
- Use unique and lengthy passwords. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, cyberwarfare isn’t going anywhere, and we’ve only seen dramatic upswings in cybercriminal activity in recent years. While this shouldn’t deter you from making purchases online, consumers need to pay mind to their usernames and passwords, as these credentials are often the gatekeepers to purchasing accounts. Make sure passwords are at least 8-10+ characters long and include at least one upper and lower-case letter, a symbol, and a number. Avoid repeating the same character more than twice. Consider using a full sentence, like “Nintex AssureSign®’s eSignature is #1 !” as they’re often lengthy, yet easy to remember. Additionally, consider investing in a password manager like LastPass or KeePass—both offering free applications on Apple’s App Store and Android’s Google Play—to store all your passwords.
- Retail research. Make sure you’re familiar with the retailer you’re purchasing from. If you’re considering ordering from somewhere other than e-commerce’s mega-retailers—Gap, Apple, Macy’s, etc.—OR from a retailer unfamiliar to you… Do. Your. Research. Search for reviews on the retailer as well as for any history of data breaches.
- Watch what you say. As a rule of thumb, most retailers won’t ask for the information that would cause your eyebrow to raise in suspicion. Social Security Numbers (SSNs), full birthdates, and other sensitive PII aren’t typically needed for everyday online shopping. Hacktivists can leverage this info along with your credit/debit card numbers to commit identity fraud.
- Buyer purchase protection. Did you know that many credit card vendors include buyer purchase for protection cardholders and authorized users? Yep! Most major credit card issuers (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, AmEx, etc.) include complementary purchase insurance that offers, in addition to other perks, 0 liability fraud protection. Fraud restitution can include immediate provisional credit in the amount of the fraudulent charge or other compensations that ease the burden of an ongoing fraud investigation. Consult your bank and/or card issuer for more information on what buyer purchase protections and fraud liability are included. Lastly—but, certainly not least—don’t forget to check your account for illegitimate activity at least once or twice per week.
- Mobile minded. Don’t think that a smart device is smart enough to ward off cyber grinches. You should consider the abovementioned tips while using any digital device, including a smart phone or tablet. In addition to these tips, there are a few considerations to keep in mind when using a mobile device for “on-the-fly” holiday shopping…
- Set a PIN or password for your device and make sure the settings are set to lock the device after no more than 30 seconds.
- Turn Bluetooth off when not in use. This helps prevent cyber criminals from tracking information logged into your phone.
- Before using a retailer’s app, do research on the app itself, much like you did for the retailer. Make sure the app is legitimate, secured, and has a clean breach history.
- If you misplace your smart device and have financial, personal, or password information stored on it, access the remote wiping tool to erase the phone (learn how by clicking here for iPhone and here for Android).
Halloween is over… so no need to let online holiday shopping give you a fright. Following these simple, yet effective cyber security tips will keep peace online and goodwill to shoppers this holiday season!
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