As the holidays are quickly approaching, it’s important to remember to stay safe while online shopping this season. According to Business Insider, 198 million U.S consumers made purchases online in the first quarter of 2014. That’s 78% of the population over the age of 15! In 2016, more people are shopping online than ever before. The bargains, fast shipping and wide variety of options make online shopping easier and more convenient for consumers. However, the internet isn’t always a safe place to share your personal information. I’ve put together five tips to help prevent a compromise of your privacy:
1. Look for the Lock
When shopping online, never make a purchase from a website that doesn’t have the small padlock icon next to the URL in the address bar or in the status bar at the bottom of your browser. The icon lets you know that the website has an SSL, or a Secure Sockets Layer. This encrypts your information, protecting you from identity theft. Be sure that the URL begins with HTTPS:// rather than HTTP://. That one simple letter on the end stands for “secure.” If the website doesn’t have these, avoid it at all costs.
PayPal takes SSL to the next level. When you create a PayPal account and link your card, you’re encrypting your information. Instead of entering your card number directly into the website, you simply sign into PayPal to make the transaction. The merchant will never know your card information. You should still be sure to look for the padlock icon on the website despite having your information already encrypted. The more protection, the better. Be aware if you get an email from PayPal; links could be a scam. Instead, to be extra cautious, go directly to the PayPal website and log in to see if there are any messages for you there. Because PayPal is the world’s most well-known and trusted online payment system, scammers take advantage, hoping you’ll open up a phishing email with your guard down.
3. Check Your Statements
If you make purchases online, make sure you check your statements regularly. Review electronic statements for your credit card, debit card and checking accounts. If there are any fraudulent charges, you’ll be able to see them quickly. With some accounts, you only have a certain time period to report the charges before you become liable for them. If you can, use a credit card rather than a debit card. Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, the credit card companies will have to reimburse you for fraudulent charges. If you see something fishy, report it right away!
4. Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi
If you enter personal information when using a public network, there is potential that you may become the victim of identity theft. Most Wi-Fi hotspots don’t encrypt your data. This can leave you susceptible to hackers. When out and about with your cellphone, be aware that if your phone automatically connects to a nearby hotspot, your information is vulnerable. In your settings, turn off the option to automatically connect. Wait until you are home to make any purchases to be as safe as possible. It may be less convenient, but you will be far less likely to have your identity stolen.
5. Don’t Tell All
Online merchants don’t need to know your social security number or your birthday in order for a transaction to go through. When you’re asked to give away that information, immediately leave the website. When a hacker gets that information in combination with your credit card number, they can leave a huge dent in your wallet. They can also use that information to hack into your other accounts. Online retailers don’t need that information, so don’t give it away.
What tips do you have for keeping your personal information safe while shopping online? I’d love to know!