Online shopping is easier and more popular than ever. In fact, 69% of Americans shop online at least yearly, and with online retail giants like Amazon and Zappos growing at record speeds, the frequency will only increase in the coming years. While the ease and popularity of online shopping make the option more alluring than visits to traditional retail stores, it comes with increased risk of financial and personal identity theft and frauds. According to Pew Research Center, 41% of Americans have encountered fraudulent charges on their credit cards Click to tweet. As an online shopper, you are constantly at risk of hackers scouring sites for your personal and financial information.
All of us at Eastern Insurance hope your holiday season is merry and bright, not full of digital hazards and fraudulent activity on your credit card statements, We have gathered information to help you make sure that you are taking the proper steps to protect and secure your online footprint. Here are seven ways you can ensure you are shopping safely online:
- Use a secure payment method.
After your cart is full and it’s time to check out, consider paying with your credit card or PayPal instead of a debit card or online check. These methods will reduce your liability if there are fraudulent charges from a purchase. Many credit card companies have suspicious activity or fraud detection technology built into cards and will contact you if an unusual charge shows up on your statement.
Many sites will ask you if you would like to store your credit card information after you input your details. While tempting, if the company has a data breach, your information could be accessed by hackers.
- Only make purchases from websites that are secure.
Look for the padlock symbol or the “https://” code in the front of a website URL, two common indicators that a website is considered, “secure,” or, that data being transmitted through the site is encrypted. You may also notice a badge on the checkout page stating that the website is, “Secure and Verified.” If you see this, hover over the image to confirm that the information linked to it matches the site you are on. A mismatched badge should be a warning flag. While these security measures are not 100% guaranteed, they offer significantly less risk of your confidential information being stolen.
- Check over your bank and credit card statements regularly.
Review your bank and credit card statements regularly to double check that you were properly charged. Keep an eye out for charges from vendors you don’t recognize and report them to the card company immediately. If you have spotted fraud, don’t fret. Most credit cards will immediately issue a refund and a new account number immediately following a fraudulent transaction.
- Don’t make purchases on public WiFi networks.
You may be tempted to check some items off your shopping list while you’re working at a cafe. Public WiFi networks don’t require passwords and allow access to anyone — including hackers, making your data more vulnerable. The latest cyber-attack is called KRACK, which is a flaw in WiFi WPA security protocol that makes it possible for attackers to access your data when connected to WiFi. Your best bet is to save your online shopping trip for your password protected home network.
- Secure your computer and mobile phone by downloading the latest software.
Your phone and computer providers constantly update security measures to protect you and your information against hacks and breaches. If your mobile device or laptop computer has a new update notice, download it as soon as possible so your device is not open to any security threats. If you are somebody who chronically ignores this critical step, take a moment to read this article, hypothesizing that the entire Equifax breach (which put approximately half of the country’s data at risk), could have been prevented by installing a recommended security patch.
- Create a complex password.
A strong password is comprised of at least seven characters, with a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Don’t use the same password for all accounts. Your password should be different for shopping sites, bank accounts, and your utility bills. If someone guesses one password, they’ll have full access to all other accounts using that password. It’s also a good rule of thumb to change your passwords every six months.
- Watch out for fake shopping apps or emails.
You’ve likely heard of “Phishing Emails,” which are fraudulent emails sent with the intention of tricking the recipient into sending personal data to an unverified source. During the busy holiday season, these can appear to be from your favorite retailer asking you to take fast action by entering your personal information in exchange for a free gift or steep discount. Emerging this year as a popular scamming trend are fake apps, created by hackers to entice consumers to download them and input their personal information. These apps are skillfully crafted to look legitimate, and in the hustle and bustle of this time of year, their warning signs can be easily overlooked. If you like to shop on a retailer’s app, always follow the download instructions from their official website. If downloading from an app store, read all descriptions thoroughly. Intentional typos are placed in the app description of fake apps. Check to see if the app has legitimate reviews from users.
For apps, emails and website, always check the source, keep an eye out for typos, and use your common sense; if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
This is a time of year to celebrate the good in the world, but unfortunately, you cannot afford to let your guard down online. If you are interested in learning more about our cyber security services and policies to safeguard your digital identity, contact a member of our customer service team via email at [email protected], or by giving us a call at 1-800-333-7234 (Option 2).