Tips to stay safe online this holiday season
During the holidays, E-commerce activity increases significantly. According to RJMetrics, the holiday season accounts for over 20% to 30% of annual sales -. More online activity equals more chances for you to be a victim of cybercrime.
This year is no exception – fraudulent use of credit cards online is on the rise.
I’ve compiled a list of the best from some of the better advice I’ve found. I’ve underlined the tips that are repeated, consider that a recognition of how important they are.
- Secure your mobile device and computer. Keep your operating system and application software updated/patched on all computers and mobile devices. Be sure to check that your anti-virus/anti-spyware software is running and receiving automatic updates. Confirm that your firewall is enabled.
- Look for “HTTPS” when making an online purchase. The “s” stands for “secure” and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted.
- Use strong passwords. If you need to create an account with an online merchant, be sure to use a strong password. Always use 10 or more characters, with numbers, special characters, and upper and lower case letters. Use a unique password for every merchant site.
- Do not use public computers or public wireless for your online shopping. Public computers may be compromised with malicious software that steals your credit card information when placing an online order. Additionally, criminals may be intercepting traffic on public wireless networks to steal credit card numbers and other confidential information.
- Pay by credit card rather than debit card. Debit cards do not have the same consumer protections as credit cards. Credit cards are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act and may reduce your liability if your information was used improperly.
- Keep a paper trail. Save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the merchant. Review your credit card statements as soon as you receive them to confirm that all charges are legitimate. Contact your credit card company immediately if you have unauthorized charges on your account.
- Keep a Clean Machine: All the devices you use for shopping – including smartphones and
tablets – should have up-to-date software including security software, operating systems, programs and apps.
- When in Doubt, Throw it Out: Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark as junk email.
- Think Before you Act: Be wary of communications that offer amazing deals that sound too good to be true, implore you to act immediately – including those about a problem with an order or payment or ask you to view the website via a provided link.
- Get Savvy about Wi-Fi Hotspots: Don’t share personal or financial information over an unsecured network (a connection that doesn’t require a password for access). Using the direct web access on your phone (via a 3G/4G connection) is safer than an unsecured wireless network when on your mobile device.
- Make Sure the Site is Legitimate:This includes a closed padlock on your web browser’s address bar or a URL address that begins with shttp or https. This indicates that the purchase is encrypted or secured. For new sites, check online reviews.
- Use Safe Payment Options: Credit cards are generally the safest option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered. Credit cards may have a limit on the monetary amount you will be responsible for paying. Never send cash through the mail or use a money-wiring service.
- Keep a Paper Trail: Save records of your online transactions, including the product description, price, online receipt, terms of the sale, and copies of email exchanges with the seller. Read your credit card statements as soon as you get them to make sure there aren’t any unauthorized charges. If there is a discrepancy, call your bank and report it immediately.
- Don’t Click E-Mail Links – Following links from phony e-mail is one of the oldest methods for perpetrating any online scam. So don’t be fooled by messages in your inbox offering enticing sales at known sites and then clicking away only to land on a scam site. Instead, open up your Web browser and enter the URL to the site offering the discounts you’re looking for and do a search for the items yourself. If you can’t find the amazing deal from the e-mail, it’s probably a scam, says Ron Meyran, director, security product marketing for security firm Radware.
- Ridiculously Deep Discounts – With many retailers offering deep discounts, sometimes as much as 50 percent, it may be tough to figure out which deals are too good to be true. The best way not to be taken in by a scam is to only shop at sites you know and trust. You can also check out the Better Business Bureau to see if the site you’re visiting is accredited by the group. The National Retail Federation’s CyberMonday.com also has a list of legitimate retailers offering Cyber Monday discounts.
- Secure Your Purchase – The BBB advises you to make sure your purchase is secure by only entering credit card details on Web pages that use SSL (secure sockets layer) security. To make sure you’re on a secure page, check to see that the URL for the page begins with “https://” and not “http://.” That “s” lets you know the site is secure. Most browsers will also show a lock icon in the lower right corner of the browser window to let you know you’re on a secure site.
- Tune Up Your Software – As with any guide to online security, make sure that you’re operating system and antivirus software are up to date with the latest security patches and other updates. That way if you do end up on a malicious site you have the best protection possible against any attempts to download or execute code on your machine.
Key tips from these and many other lists are:
- Keep your computer/mobile device up to date on patches, upgrades, and virus protection.
- Don’t use a debit card
- Print a record of all transactions
- Do not shop on a public WiFi network, use your cell data connection or home network
PS. Shop early, all major shipping companies are reporting delays due to the jump in online purchasing!