These days, as online shopping continues to rise and rise in popularity, people submit credit card information to a wide variety of websites. Of course, security for e-commerce and online payments has improved as well, but that doesn’t mean there are no longer any gaps in security. Plus, there’s the added threat of data breaches, which means that even large retailers aren’t always a safe place to shop.
Avoid shopping altogether? Pay only in cash? Don’t worry, we have some tips for safe online shopping this holiday season.
Use sites you know
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Shop from sites you are already familiar with, or alternatively, go to a major retail store. (This is not to say that the main outlets are always safe, but they are less likely to rip you off.) Be wary of sites that use different top-level domains or have misspellings, or worse, both (like amaz0n.info).
Another added precaution is to use third-party payments, such as PayPal if they are offered. That puts another layer of security between you and potential thieves.
Stay on a secure network
Free, public Wi-Fi is especially tempting at times like Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday while you shop on the go. But remember that public Wi-Fi is incredibly insecure.
A network is only as secure as everyone in it, so if anyone can access a public network, criminals can too. You must be very careful when jumping to a public network, even if it is password protected. After all, how protected can the network of the corner cafe be if the password is written on the wall? But if you must buy on a public network, make sure to turn on your VPN.
Use a virtual private network (VPN)
VPNs are a must if you use any public Wi-Fi network, password protected or not. Because VPNs encrypt your information, you can go about your usual shopping routine: browsing, logging in, or registering on a site, verifying your bank account, entering your credit card information and address, without having to worry about what thieves take over your data.
Another advantage of shopping while on a VPN is that you can sometimes unblock geo-restricted offers. For example, sometimes flights can be cheaper if you set your VPN to look like you’re coming from a different country.
Related: The Facts About Single Sign-On (SSO)
Be careful not to share too much personal information. If any retail site asks for your social security number, it runs very, very far. Also be wary of a retail site that asks for information such as your birthday, maternal last name, first pet’s name, or income. Sometimes sites promise great deals for spreading this information, so you have to ask yourself if the deal is worth it. The devil is in the details, and it is with this metadata that criminals can cause serious harm.
For most online retail stores, the only information they need to process your purchase is your name, billing address (plus the postal address, if you are purchasing a tangible item), email address, and credit card information. credit.
Check your bank statements
It’s always good practice to regularly check your bank and credit card accounts for suspicious purchases, but even more so during the holiday season. If something seems out of place, do your research immediately. If it turns out to be fraudulent, inform your bank or card issuer immediately about the card in question.