Safe Online Shopping Makes the Season Bright

Author: Lindsey Horner

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If you’re a fan of the scroll-click-pay convenience of online shopping, you’re not alone. Recent data from Forbes shows online Black Friday sales hit $9.8 billion this year, up 7.5% compared to 2022, and that 54% of those purchases were made on a mobile device. And the holiday shopping season is just beginning!

All signs point to convenience and comfort winning over the masses, and cybercriminals know it, as they are counting on everyone spending more time and sharing more data online this time of year. While making online purchases this holiday season, keep those transactions secure with the tips listed below.

Know Your Retailers and Their Sites

  • Navigate directly – Deals are often delivered right to your inbox, but to be sure they’re legitimate, go directly to your favorite retailers’ websites rather than clicking on links in emails.
  • Identify website security features – When visiting websites, watch for a padlock icon in your browser window. Or a URL that starts with “HTTPS” where the “S” stands for secure. Seeing either of these features means that any transactions on that website will be private.
  • Avoid resale sites – Scammers love to buy up the high-demand items of the season and then sell them at skyrocketing prices on resale sites (like eBay). It’s best to avoid this type of shopping experience, and the increased risk of counterfeit items and fraud that comes along with it.
  • Let other shoppers help you – Be wary of online retailers with significant negative reviews or no reviews, as this could mean they aren’t what they seem.

Keep Privacy and Security Top of Mind

  • Opt for a secure payment method – Third-party digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay store your card information, then encode it so a retailer doesn’t receive your full card number.
  • Avoid free public Wi-Fi – While convenient, public Wi-Fi is not secure and cybercriminals can easily monitor your activity. Instead, use personal mobile hotspots and VPNs. These are more secure options if you need to make a purchase while out and about.
  • Share your information carefully – Use caution with online retailers that ask for unconventional information to complete your purchase - like social security number or wire transfer details - and try another retailer if you’re concerned.

Finally, always closely monitor your bank account and other financial statements. Be sure to verify all purchases listed are legitimate, and report any unrecognized transactions to your financial institution.

More valuable online shopping tips are available in this Online Shopping article on the National Cybersecurity Alliance website.