The holiday season is here and that means tons of shopping.
We all want the best deals, which used to mean running from store to store looking a bargain. These days it is much easier to find the best price by comparing websites from the comfort of our laptop, tablet, or smartphone. But during the holiday shopping season, we must be aware of the potential risks of shopping online.
Here are seven simple ways to help lower your risks:
- Before you begin shopping and entering personal information onto your computer be sure you have installed an anti-virus program. Make sure it is up to date and complete. This is the foundation of your online security.
- Check the authenticity of the web address or URL where you will be making your purchases. By checking the address, it can give you clues as to whether you are dealing with the correct company or safe site. The following items shown on your web browser will indicate a connection to a secure website: https://. The “s” that is displayed after “http” indicates that the website is secure. Often, you do not see the “s” until you actually move to the order page on the website. Also, make sure there is a closed yellow padlock displayed at the bottom of your screen. If that lock is open, you should assume it is not a secure site.
- Watch out for holiday deals that sound too good to be true; it may be a scam. In addition, stay away from online PayDay loans. These are often scams, especially during the holidays when many consumers are in need of a little extra cash. You may find yourself receiving threatening collection calls from alleged law firms or collections agencies stating that you took out a loan when, in fact, you may have not even taken out a loan at all. It is a common scam.
- Keep confirmation numbers and/or codes for every purchase or transaction in order to address any problems that may occur as a result of shipping problems.
- Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software up to date, especially, when doing online transactions. Also, keep in mind that you should not use shared computers to make important purchases.
- Watch out for shoulder-surfing or wandering eyes when inputting your payment information if you will be using a computer in public.
- Avoid shopping while using public wifi. Though those hot spots at the local coffee shop are convenient, they open users up to all kinds of risks. If you do need to use public wifi, make sure you have a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, installed on your device.
If you are among the growing number of online shoppers this holiday season, it is important to remain cautious throughout your shopping. While these tips may not prevent you from becoming a victim of identity theft, they will allow you to minimize your risk of becoming a target of the cybercriminals exploiting the holiday season.