Staying Safe While Shopping Online

Have your plans for holiday shopping changed this year? Given the continued emphasis on social distancing and avoiding large crowds, shopping from the comfort and safety of home will likely be a common choice. It probably won’t surprise anyone that this convenience doesn’t come without its own set of risks so here are a few tips to keep in mind while you’re looking for those great deals.

Know the retailer you’re using – It’s always a good idea to type in the name of the retailer yourself, rather than clicking on links in emails or other random websites. Fake websites can be alarmingly similar to real sites but entering personal information on an imposter site can lead to all sorts of identity theft. If you have a favorite retailer or a site you visit often, bookmark the site to save yourself the hassle of typing in the URL every time you visit that particular site.

Make sure you’re using a secure site – To be sure the site you’re using is secure, look for https:// at the start of the URL and/or a small padlock icon in the address bar.

Do not use public Wi-Fi – This is important to keep in mind at all times, not just while you’re shopping. Entering ANY personal information or passwords while on public Wi-Fi is easily intercepted. That studious looking kid at the next table could be studying your personal info rather than the latest homework assignment. No matter how often you visit your favorite local coffee shop or other public space, keep your computer usage to general “surfing the web” and not taking care of your banking or shopping.

Use a credit card – If your information in stolen, credit cards offer specific protections that prevent you from being liable for the unauthorized charges. It’s ALWAYS a good idea to carefully check each credit card statement you receive but it becomes even more so when you’ve been doing a lot of online shopping. If you do discover unauthorized usage, notify your bank or credit card company ASAP to protect yourself.

Create a different password for each site – Yes, it’s inconvenient and a bit of a hassle to remember a plethora of passwords for the different sites you visit BUT it’s the safest way to operate online. By taking this step, you’ll protect yourself if one site is compromised. You’ll only have to worry about changing your information on that site as opposed to many sites. If you can’t remember all your different passwords (and, really, who can?), get a password keeper app and use it to store your passwords there. PCMag has an article highlighting the best password managers for 2020. This link (https://www.pcmag.com/picks/the-best-password-managers) will take you to their overview.

As this most unusual year winds down, we’re all anxious to move on to bigger and better things. It’s been a year of challenges but online shopping trouble does not need to be one of them.


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