5 tips to stay safe while online shopping

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner! With the anticipated uptick in online shopping this year, not only is it convenient, but increases the number of targets for cybercriminals.  Here are five quick tips to help you stay safe and protect yourself while online shopping.

  1. Use a secure payment method.

Pay with either a credit card or PayPal.  These options offer more buyer protection when it comes to fraudulent charges.  Credit card companies, such as Visa and Mastercard,  have security features in place to protect consumers.

  1. HTTPS is your friend.

Be sure to check the URL during checkout.  If the URL starts with “https,” then the site is deemed secure.  Secure in this case means that there is secure communication and data is not accessible by third parties.  Use Google Chrome as a browser as an added layer of protection, because the browser indicates when the site does not have “https” by posting a red “Not secure” label when entering text.

  1. Don’t shop on public Wi-Fi.

Public Wi-Fi is never secure.  In addition to not knowing what information or data is being tracked, it also creates an open door for cybercriminals to access your information.  A VPN is the safest, most secure, option for connecting in public.  If a VPN is not available, then using your phones hotspot or cellular data are both safe options.

  1. Be sure to use different passwords and usernames.

Reusing usernames and passwords is number one on the list of cybersecurity mistakes. By using the same log-in credentials across multiple accounts, it creates a vulnerability. When a hacker gains access to one account, then the rest are susceptible to hacks.  Access to an account exposes personal and financial data that can then be used for future attacks. Having multiple log-in credentials could be daunting to keep track of, but password managers are available.

  1. Check links, then check again, and then check a third time.

The online buying process includes: shopping on the site, check out, and then confirmation and shipping emails.  At every step, it is important to verify that the site or link is still secure. Attackers can seamlessly redirect a page to a not secure page unknowingly to the buyer.

Attacks don’t stop at the checkout.  Check all subsequent emails (you don’t want to fall for an email phishing scam). First, validate who the sender is. It is easy for attackers to spoof email addresses to make it appear the email is from the retailer.  Then be cautious of any links or attachments in an email.  Don’t click if you are not 100% positive it is secure.  Be warned that attackers spoof mail carriers.  FedEx and Amazon have warned customers about phishing attempts.

Part of not becoming a victim of a cyberattack is by being an educated shopper.  Follow these tips and you’ll minimize your risks. Happy safe shopping!

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