Do you want to avoid long lines and large crowds this holiday season? Shopping online lets you zip through your list with just a few button clicks. But before you whip out your plastic, make sure you check to see if you’re on a secure website. Below are five online shopping tips to keep you safe during the holidays.
Look for the padlock symbol.
Don’t check out at a website unless you see a padlock symbol on the browser bar of whatever device you’re using. This symbol means that the page has extra security to prevent others from viewing your sensitive information. Another way to tell a website is secure is that it starts with “https” instead of just “http.” The “s” means the site is secure.
Be cautious on public Wi-Fi.
If you need to check your online banking account while you’re away from home, avoid public Wi-Fi networks. Many retailers provide free Wi-Fi as a convenience to customers, but you can’t be sure who’s able to see the data you send on the network, including private information. Instead, consider using a virtual private network, or VPN, a service that lets you encrypt the information you send over the internet. That way, others won’t be able to access your data even if they can access the network. You can also send data over your personal cellular provider’s network, which bypasses Wi-Fi.
Change passwords regularly.
Even if you take steps to shop securely, a hacker could steal your user name, password or other sensitive information from a retailer’s database. Protect yourself by changing the passwords of your online accounts every three months or so. That way, if hackers do breach a retailer’s software, there’s a good chance they’ll have access only to an old password.
Update anti-virus software.
If you shop from a home computer, keep your security software updated. Anti-virus software companies frequently release security updates to address newly discovered security loopholes.
Monitor your bank accounts.
Check your bank accounts for unusual activity frequently using mobile and online banking. You can even setup alerts so that you are instantly notified if something looks out of place. If you notice something out of sorts, contact your financial institution immediately to notify them of them of the fraud.
Follow these online shopping tips to take advantage of the convenience of online shopping while protecting yourself from fraud. Your holiday shopping season will be so much more enjoyable knowing you have taken the steps to secure all your private information well checking everyone off your list.