Be smart about shopping online.
If you’re like most Americans, you do some online shopping, right? But are you shopping online in a way that protects you from the pitfalls: fake websites, insecure sites, and spyware/malware? We put together a few tips and guidelines to help you stay safer while shopping online. (We‘re helpful that way.) Read on to make sure you’re doing all you can to protect your identity and credit card/account information when you’re cruising the internet for deals.
Shop only with reputable vendors
Reputable online vendors will have a secure website with a secure checkout. Watch for a little padlock in the address bar or “https:” before the URL — the “s” stands for “secure.” Also look for the lock symbol when you get to that shopping cart. If you don’t see these signs of security, then you shouldn’t enter your info!
Watch out for fake websites
Fraudsters can easily create websites that look just like the sites where you like to shop. (At first glance, these fake websites totally look authentic!) Double check the URL, the copyright date (and so on) to determine if the site you’re on is legit. If something looks wrong to you, or if the deals seem to be too good to be true, think twice about making a purchase.
Create and use strong passwords
We’ve talked about it before, and we’ll talk about it again — strong, unique passwords can help protect you when doing anything online. It’s a good idea to have unique passwords for all your shopping sites. That way if one site becomes compromised, the potential damage is limited to that account. (And your other online shopping accounts are not at risk!)
Also, never use the same password for online shopping that you use for online banking!
Secure your computer
Anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-malware software can help protect your computer when you click on the wrong thing. Having an up-to-date browser is always a good idea, which means you may have to upgrade your computer to ensure safe shopping.
Avoid public Wi-Fi networks
Security experts also recommend avoiding public wireless networks when shopping — and for anything that includes a login and password. Public Wi-Fi isn’t secure enough for these tasks, because hackers can get into the network and see what you’ve looked at, logged into, and typed, including your passwords. The last thing you want is to practically hand over your credit card info or login details to some hacker!
If you just gotta shop with a latte, use your smartphone as a personal hotspot. (It’s safer than the coffee shop’s free Wi-Fi.)
Be alert for email scams
Sometimes email scammers send out viruses and malware in the guise of a gift or special offer from the shopping sites you love. It can be really difficult to tell the difference between a legit offer and an email scam. Even though the offer may be exciting (who wouldn’t want to know more about 75% off the newest cell phone?!) our best advice is: Don’t click on the links or open attachments! (Losing out on a possibly genuine deal is better than having to cope with the fallout from malware!) As a rule, don’t even open emails from a person you don’t know or a site you haven’t visited.
Another scam: emails that seem to be from your favorite online retailer asking you to change your password. Don’t click on any links in the email! Instead, go directly to the retailer’s site through your browser, log into your account, and see if your password needs to be changed.
As long as we’re talkin’ about email… never send key personal information, such as your Social Security number or account number, to anyone in an email. (It’s simply not secure.)
Use a credit card
Using a credit card instead of your debit card prevents fraudsters from gaining direct access to (and draining!) your checking account. Plus, credit cards provide greater purchase protection and zero-fraud liability limits. Credit card companies can help you get a refund for bad transactions and unauthorized charges, and it’s easier to dispute charges on a credit card. And, the Fair Credit Billing Act protects consumers from unauthorized charges when they are reported within 60 days.
Follow the guidelines, and you should be in good shape when you shop online! And speaking of online shopping, if you’re looking for some great discounts and deals (who isn’t?) you might also consider our All-In Checking account.