For some people, the thrill of hitting the mall with its brightly lit decorations, never-ending Christmas music and 75% off banners is the highlight of the season. But for the rest of us, nothing brings out the Bah-Humbug quite like being forced to brave the seasonal crowds and fight for that last Tickle-me-Elmo (or whatever's in style this year). And that's why we love online shopping. We have the world of gift giving at our fingertips, and most retailers offer free or discounted shipping. Merry Christmas to us!
But online shopping comes with its own pitfalls. There are Grinches out there looking for ways to exploit our vulnerabilities and steal our Christmas joy. We want to help you ensure your data is secure when you're shopping online.
Be Sure You're Secure:
When you're entering your credit card details on a site, it's important to make sure this data is sent securely. Your browser has a way of showing you that your credit card number will be encrypted so no one monitoring the network traffic can intercept your data. Most browsers use a green padlock icon in the address bar to signify a secure connection.
If you're out and about, it may seem convenient to use a coffee shop or airport's free Wi-Fi, but using these public networks isn't a good idea when you're sending credit card details and personal information. Using free Wi-Fi networks makes you vulnerable to people sniffing the network looking to grab usernames, passwords and credit card numbers. When buying online, it's always best to use your home network or another secured connection like the direct web access on your phone.
Hold On Before You Click That Link:
If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. That goes double for shopping online. If you get an email for 80% off the latest gadget or $5 boots it could be a phishing scam. These links can take you to false sites designed to steal your data. Even if the email comes from a friend or family member, think twice before shopping and, when in doubt, do a simple Google search to check the reliability of the site.
Shop on Reputable Websites:
With that in mind, it's always best to go with what you know. While most resellers run honest businesses on the web, there are people looking to take advantage of online shoppers. Consider purchasing from trusted retailers like Amazon or online eCommerce sites for the brick-and-mortar stores you visit most. Even if they cost a few dollars more, you'll have peace of mind knowing your information is secure.
Use Secure Passwords:
Whether the retailer requires you to use a strong password or not, it's always the wisest course of action - the longer the better. Don't use common words, use capitals, numbers and punctuation marks. Whatever you do, don't fall into the trap of "password1" or "yourname123."
Check Your Bank Account:
After all your shopping is done, be sure to check your accounts to confirm that the amount withdrawn from your account matches the amount on your receipts and that there aren't any suspicious charges from companies you didn't buy from.
Shopping online can be a great way to avoid the Christmas rush, keep your holiday cheer in tact, and even save extra time and money. Just be sure you're following safe practices when you shop online to avoid turning the Happy Holidays into the Nightmare Before Christmas.