How to stay safe while shopping online
The holiday season is upon us. And while we can all imagine the crowds of shoppers crowding malls and department stores on key shopping dates leading up to Christmas, most holiday shoppers will be doing most of their shopping online this year.
It is important to keep a cool head when shopping online. There are massive deals and literally endless sites to find online with every gift, good, and service under the sun available to you. If you can afford the shipping, there’s a good chance you can get your hands on it. With so much online business activity, this time of year is a prime time for unethical actors to break into your network and steal important information.
Security software, such as Bitdefender Total Security, is a must-have for protecting your devices and is packed with tools and automated analytics to help you avoid heartache while shopping. However, it is also crucial to exercise due diligence and use common sense before sharing financial information anywhere. Read on to make sure you’re doing all you can to shop safely this holiday season.
Be smart about passwords
Some shopping sites allow you to check out as a guest, just giving the one-off information needed for your transaction. Others require you to create a login identity with a password and username (or you can choose to do this on sites you buy regularly). Remembering passwords is difficult, so you might be tempted to just recycle the same password over and over again. No ! Hackers know that many people engage in password recycling. Therefore, when they access the credentials of a retailer, they quickly try the credentials on other similar sites. If you don’t want to remember multiple passwords, the best way to create strong and secure ones is to use a password manager, which is available on its own but is often included in security suites such as Bitdefender Total. Security mentioned above.
Use familiar websites
Start on a trusted site. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray, especially when you go past the first few pages of links. If you are familiar with the site, chances are it is less of a scam. We all know Amazon carries everything under the sun; likewise, just about every major retail store has an online store, from Myer to The Good Guys and JB-HiFi. Beware of misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain (.net instead of .com.au, for example): these are the oldest tips in the book. Yes, the sales on these sites might sound tempting, but this is how they get you to give out your information.
Avoid excessive sharing
Speaking of personal information, beware when online stores ask for more than they need. If a site’s checkout form includes data fields that are in no way necessary for the transaction, this is a sign that you may want to reconsider the purchase. If these fields are marked as mandatory, it is worse. But if you are desperate to move on, lie! Fill in the irrelevant mandatory fields with invented data.
Stay at home
This one hasn’t been difficult for many of us over the past couple of years. But while in theory, you can buy electronically, wherever you are. In practice, it is better to stay at home to do your shopping. If you use public Wi-Fi like in a coffee shop or shopping mall, your transaction may be watched by prying eyes. Even if you think you’ve connected to a known and safe Wi-Fi network, there’s nothing stopping a crook from setting up a portable Wi-Fi hotspot with the same SSID as your favorite cafe. Sometimes circumstances may require you to shop on the go. You can improve your security by turning off Wi-Fi and just using cellular data while shopping. You can also install a VPN application such as Bitdefender Premium VPN on your phone, which will encrypt your communications and prevent any possibility of spying.
Watch your back
Another advantage of home shopping is that no one is potentially looking over your shoulder. When you pull out your credit card and start typing the number on a website, snoopers nearby have a chance to see and remember the number. You can outsmart surfers by staying alert, sitting with your back to the wall and keeping your screen protected. Better yet, use your password manager to fill in the saved credit card data, while the card itself stays safe in your wallet.
Check your bank statements regularly
Don’t wait for your bill to arrive at the end of the month. Log in regularly during the holiday season and view electronic statements for your credit card, debit card and checking accounts. Look for fraudulent charges, even from payment sites like PayPal and Venmo. (After all, there are many ways to get your money’s worth.) Always keep track of your online purchases and you’ll know immediately if something is wrong.