Stay Safe While Shopping Online

Author: Kolin Hodgson

The 2020 holiday gift-giving season will be affected by COVID-19. The need for contactless shopping means online shopping will grow by 30% from last year. This means Americans will spend over $190-billion dollars when shopping for the holidays—and using their credit cards with even more online retailers..

While enjoying the convenience of online shopping this holiday season—especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday—be sure to follow these important guidelines to keep your personal information and accounts safe.

  • Use a credit card, not your debit card: Credit card charges have a built-in delay, so refunds can happen quickly. Debit card charges hit your account immediately, and a refund could take weeks longer.
  • Stick to online stores you know:  You see an ad for an item online you want to purchase from an unfamiliar retailer. Consider looking for the same product on Amazon or a reputable online store you’ve used in the past. If unsure about a retailer, you can check the retailer’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau at: www.bbb.org.
  • Online stores should always ask for your 3-digit security code: The retailer should always ask for the security code from the back of your card. This helps verify you have the actual credit card—not just the number from the front of the card. 
  • Use your home WiFi when you shop: Free WiFi in public places is fine for occasional use, but never for financial transactions like online shopping. Competent hackers can easily access your purchases and account information on WiFi in public places. It’s best to use your home network for online shopping and any other financial transaction.
  • Protect your privacy: Retailers want to know all about their customers, but it’s important to control how much information you share with them. In order to make a purchase or set up an account, the retailer may ask you to provide such as your birth date, gender, hobbies etc. If a retailer is hacked, the information you shared could be stolen, and cyber-criminals could use it to try to steal your identity. Be careful about how much personal information you choose to share.
  • Too good to be true? There may be some amazing sales on merchandise before the holidays, but beware of email offers that seem too good to be true. It may be a scam. At this time of year, email scams that try to impersonate well-known retailers may include harmful links. Instead of clicking on a link in an email, visit the retailer’s website to find out about legitimate holiday deals.
  • Look for the familiar padlock icon before you buy: The padlock icon at the top of your browser indicates any transactions on that website will be private. You might notice that all secure websites start with “HTTPS.” The “S” stands for secure.
  • Review your statements: Closely review your credit card statements when the holiday purchases begin to appear. Look for charges you don't recognize, and contact your credit card company to report anything that looks unfamiliar.

If you are going to do your holiday shopping online to take advantage of early holiday sales, be sure to do so thoughtfully and securely.

You can find additional online shopping tips from this National Cybersecurity Alliance article