How to Shop Online Safely
Not too many years ago most people shopped in their local stores. Parking problems, long lines, and shopping carts were inevitable. Even when online shopping was available, people felt uncomfortable using their credit cards and giving their personal information to cyber-shops. Regardless of how much online shopping evolved, people must find proper ways to protect their personal information. Here’s how.
Use Familiar Websites
You can start at a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be set up to lead you astray, especially when you drift past the first few pages of links. If you know the site, chances are it's less likely to be a scam. We all know Amazon.com and that it is legitimate. Every major retail outlet has an online store, from Target to Best Buy to Home Depot. Beware of misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain. In case you want to try out something new, it would be best to read reviews and learn something about the online store in question. Try to find out as much information as possible in order to be certain this experience will not be remembered in a bad light.
Look for the Lock
NEVER buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn't have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed – at the very least. You'll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with https:// (instead of just http://). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar. It depends on your browser. Additional advice: Never, ever give anyone your credit card over email. Ever.
Don't Tell All
No online shopping store needs your social security number or your birthday to do business with you. However, if thieves get them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage. The more they know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, default to giving up the least amount of information. Use your common sense in order to determine which information is crucial for doing business and which one is not. Don’t tell everything about yourself, some things need to stay private to keep your identity protected.
Don't wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly during the holiday season and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Make sure you don't see any fraudulent charges, even originating from sites like PayPal. (After all, there's more than one way to get to your money.) If you do see something wrong, pick up the phone to address the matter quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only once you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems, however; after that, you might be liable for the charges anyway.
Be Careful Where You Shop Online
Everyone loves a good bargain. That often means making a purchase on an unfamiliar website. While you may think you're scoring a deal, that website could either be a fake or already compromised, which means your personal information could be stolen.
Thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices, people can shop over the Internet virtually anywhere; however, shopping on a public Wi-Fi hot spot opens you up to risk. Often computer hackers will break into public Wi-Fi hot spots and try to capture people’s sensitive information as it is being sent wirelessly. To prevent an attack, only conduct financial transactions on a Wi-Fi network that you know is secure. If you have no choice but to make a purchase on the go you, then you are better off using your mobile provider’s Internet instead of a public Wi-Fi spot.
Use Strong Passwords
This is of crucial importance. You should always use different passwords everywhere. A study by BitDefender showed that 75 percent of people use their e-mail password for Facebook, as well. If that's also your Amazon or PayPal password and it's discovered, say good-bye to some funds, if not friends. In addition, you need to change them often (image passwords are underwear and change them regularly). Don't share them. Don't leave them out for others to see. Make your password a total mystery to others. Avoid common passwords (1234 or abcd). If it's the name of your relatives, your kids, or your pet, favorite team, or city of your birth, guess what – it's not a strong password. If it's your birthday, anniversary, date of graduation, even your car license plate number, it's not a strong password.
Don't Save Personal Details
We advise you not to be lazy. Just about every shopping site will offer to make your life easier by creating and account, so you don't have to fill in your address, credit card, and such next time you visit. Don't do it! Otherwise when that shopping site gets hacked (and it will), the attackers might gain all your personal details. Instead, use a password manager that includes automated Web form filling.
Keep Security Software Up To Date
One of the best ways to protect yourself when shopping online is to make sure your computer is up-to-date in terms of security software. It’s also important to make sure your web browsers and operating system have all the proper patches installed. Any consumer who uses a computer to shop online without any security software is setting themselves up to get compromised.
It’s also a good idea to have a computer that is dedicated to shopping and surfing the web. That computer shouldn’t be the same one that you conduct your banking or any other sensitive transactions on. After all if the computer is comprised, and it holds your banking information on it, then hackers can easily get into your account and clean it out.
Skip the Debit Card
Credit cards and debit cards look the same. But if the merchant ships you faulty merchandise, or fails to deliver, a credit card offers protection that you don't get from a debit card. Use credit cards, not debit cards, for online shopping.
Shopping online really is tremendously convenient, and it need not be dangerous to your security or privacy. Just stay alert, remember these tips, and shop safely online. In addition, we encourage you to leave comments below.