When shopping online, it is best to stick to credit cards or payment services such as Paypal. Because debit cards are linked to your bank account, you run a much higher risk if someone is able to hack your information. Credit cards provide more protection and less liability if a card number is stolen. This is a time when it pays to put it on plastic.
Our advisory team member and cybersecurity expert Pete Canavan agrees. For quick refunds in case of anything do go wrong, he recommends sticking to payment services and credit cards.
“When there is a fraudulent website or transaction, credit card companies will typically immediately reverse the fee and conduct an investigation,” he says. “If you use your debit card and there is a problem, your bank may not return the money until after an investigation has been completed, which can take weeks or months.”
Before entering personal or financial information, make sure that the place you are in is legitimate and safe. The easiest way to tell is to look for “https” at the beginning of a site’s address. If you do not see “s” at the end of “http”, the site is not encrypted and your data will not be secure. All legitimate shopping sites have “s” for your protection.
Updating your software is one of the easiest things you can do to protect your information, but many people discourage it. Software updates are often released to improve security and combat new attacks that are constantly evolving. It may seem inconvenient to have to wait for your computer (or your smartphone) to undergo updates and restart, but the protective benefits are worth it. The next time you see a warning about updating your software, do so.
The holidays are a good time for email scammers to send viruses and malware out in the guise of a gift or special offer. Do not open emails from someone you do not know or a website you have not visited. Another way the bad guys are trying to get you is with fake messages from your bank or other financial institution saying that there is a warning or a problem with your account. Always call the bank directly to confirm any problems and never enter your account information in response to an email like this.
5. Do not click on links
In addition to sneaky attacks in emails, be aware of links to offers that are too good to be true on social networking sites. Keep an eye out for incredible deals and holiday gifts and bonuses. If you’re really tempted by an offer, research something, or find out if anyone else has tried to take advantage of the deal before you click.
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There’s a reason this advice might sound like a broken record – it’s really important. Secure, unique passwords are your best gatekeepers when it comes to keeping your private information private. If you use the same password for multiple sites, take the time to change them. If you want to be virtually hack-proof, you need a password generator and manager to help you develop and keep track of those types of long, complicated passwords that are not worth the hacker’s time to crack.
7. Never give more info than necessary
Free hotspots are like manna from heaven when you are out, but hackers like them even more than you do. Since public networks are not secured, any information you enter on a public network is ripe for picking. Do not log in to bank sites or payment sites such as Paypal on a public network – and make sure you are logged out of such sites on mobile devices before connecting to a public network.
9. Be smart with shopping apps
Apps make everything more convenient, including stealing your private information. Only download shopping apps from a trusted source like Apple App Store or Android Market. Pay attention to the permissions that the app asks for. If you see something that does not make sense, e.g. To access your contacts, make sure you do not give the app access to it. Checking the comments and reviews of an app before downloading is another way to identify suspicious activity.
10. Lock units
One of the benefits of online shopping is that you can do it anywhere and use any device. Make sure all devices you shop from have security software in place. Always use a password to access your tablet or smartphone, and log off your computer or lock the screen when you walk away from it. After accessing a shopping or banking site, be sure to log out of the site completely before quitting, and do not let your computer or device remember your usernames, passwords, or credit card information.
A stolen identity is even worse than a lump of coal in your sock. Make sure you only have good surprises this holiday season by sticking to these smart online shopping tips to keep you and your information protected.