Safely shopping online doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. In today’s world, there is every reason to shop online. Many merchants offer lower prices due to the reduced overhead costs of running their businesses online. Additionally, they may offer “Online Specials” to entice online shopping – their profit margins are greater due to the reduced overhead.
But there are thieves in the shadows, hacking into merchant’s files, snagging your credit card information, watching you enter your pin numbers at ATMs and Points of Sale, especially during the holidays when you are most vulnerable and sometimes careless.
Like we said, it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience—and by making a few adjustments and thinking ahead, you can protect yourself from becoming a victim and be your own Loss Prevention.
Here we provide you some of the best tips to help you protect yourself from credit card fraud and even identity theft.
- Avoid search engines when shopping for high-end items. Start at a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Not all search engine results can be trusted. By using trusted sites, you are at less risk of being ripped off. Almost every major retail store now has a website. Amazon, eBay, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buy, Overstock, all have a fantastic selection of merchandise and are trustworthy when it comes to protecting your sensitive information. There are many others that are equally trustworthy.
- Beware of misspelled names or sites using a different top-level domain (for example, .net instead of .com). These sites are rigged to capture your information to defraud you. Also, reputable sights will never ask you to log on to reenter your security information nor will they ask you the answers to your security questions – these are all phishing techniques. Never, ever give anyone your credit card over email. Ever.
- SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption– The Lock
Never ever, ever buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed. Secure shopping site’s URLs always start with HTTPS://. An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar, depending on your browser.
- Be leery of odd questions that ask for unnecessary personal information
No online store needs your social security number or your birthday-. However, if crooks get them, combined with your credit card information, you are releasing sensitive information that can give them the ability to steal your identity; you may be held liable for some of the charges.
- Checking on your charges
Go online regularly, especially during the holiday season, and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Check for fraudulent charges; some may even originate from sites like PayPal. If something appears to be out of line, call your bank or credit card company immediately. In the case of credit cards, do not pay the bill until you are sure that the charges are accurate.
- Protect your data
Protect your data files against malware. There are several programs that provide excellent protection, i.e. AVG Antivirus, Malware bytes, MacAfee, Norton, and Kaspersky. Be sure to keep your anti-virus program updated; there are hundreds of new threats every day.
- Use Strong Passwords
Make sure to utilize ultra-secure passwords-change them often and do not share them, especially with your children.
- Mobile devices
Shopping with your mobile phone as secure as your laptop or PC – you can install an anti-malware program on them as well. Only use apps that are provided by trusted sites, such as Amazon, Target, etc. Purchase using their apps vs. the website
- Avoid Public Computers
Never use a public computer to make purchases. However, if you do, just remember to log out every time you use one. If you are using your own laptop to shop with using a public Wi-Fi connection, you could be setting yourself up for identity theft. Tip: Sit at the back of the café, facing the door.
- How to Avoid Public Wi-Fi and Privatize Your Connection
If you do decide to go out with the laptop to shop, you’ll need a Wi-Fi connection. You can set up a free VPN (Virtual Private Network) from such companies as Anchor Free Hotspot Shield. Reputable places such as Starbucks or Barnes & Noble. McDonalds, Panera Bread, and FedEx Office locations, not to mention libraries—they all provide ultra-secure network.
- About Buying Gift Cards
Always buy from the source when you buy one. Be sure to check the available amount immediately after you purchase to ensure you got your money’s worth.
- If it’s Too Good to Be True…
…don’t buy it. Check out the pricing at the online site for that brand and compare the pricing. Although there are many reputable retailers online that sell top quality designer goods, slightly discounted, there is never a sizeable gap in pricing.