Ask the Expert
“I’m getting a head start on holiday shopping. How can I stay safe while shopping online?”
The holidays usually bring great Black Friday and Christmas deals from retailers across the country. There are a few steps you can take to ensure that your financial information stays safe, while taking advantage of these promotions.
The first step you can take when coming across a website is checking the security of the retailer’s website very closely. For starters, look for “https” at the beginning of the URL, not just “http.” The websites with an s at the end will mask any data you share on pages that ask for passwords and financial info.
You can also read reviews to see if there have been any complaints or navigate to the company’s security policy and read it. If it doesn’t reassure you, we would suggest moving on to another site. Another rule of thumb is if a deal seems too good to be real, it probably is.
Only shop using a secure connection. Don’t do business online while you’re on Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or other public place because they use unprotected, public info that can easily be hacked. This makes it too easy for hackers to intercept your transaction and get your financial information.
Credit Not Debit
Be sure you are using your credit card and not debit. Most credit cards offer better protection and aren’t linked to a bank account. If someone racks up unauthorized charges on your credit card, federal regulations say you won’t have to pay while the card company investigates. Most major credit cards offer $0 liability for fraudulent purchases. You may also want to consider using a third-party payment option such as PayPal.
If you do find a new retailer you want to do business with, be sure to use a strong, unique password if you are creating an account. This will ensure that hackers can’t log in and change the shipping address or order new things that you’re paying for. Better yet, complete the transaction as a “guest” and don’t agree to have the site save your information.
Beware Fake Shopping Apps
Beware of fake shopping apps. They can steal your financial information or install malware on your device. They may look like the real thing in your app store but check to see how long they’ve been around. If there aren’t many reviews yet, that’s a bad sign. Avoid the issue entirely by finding a link to the app on the retailer’s website.
Watch out for phishing emails. Scammers go to great lengths to acquire personal information about you, which includes mimicking a popular retailer’s email in hopes that you will click a link and provide them with information. If something feels fishy about the email, such as too good of a deal, poor spelling or grammar, or mismatched URLs, don’t click any links and delete the email. You can always check the retailer’s official website for the same deals instead of clicking links contained within the email.
Shopping locally is your best course of action for keeping your important information safe this holiday season, but if you do shop online, only do business with companies you know and who have a high-ranking reputation.
Remember, no shopping retailer is going to need your social security information or personal details outside of your shipping address and payment info. Be sure you are always keeping your receipts or order confirmation numbers in case you have a problem with the order.
If you end up having problems with your order, call the merchant, if they end up being fake, your credit card company will be able to help you with any issues.