Simple Ways to Protect Yourself When Shopping Online

Jul 08, 2016

online-shopping-thumbnailWith criminals becoming more and more sophisticated in their efforts to steal your money and personal information, it’s understandable if you’re alarmed by the growing incidences of cyber crime which cost U.S. consumers billions of dollars in losses each year. Want to enjoy the convenience of online shopping along with the many amazing deals to be found on the Internet without compromising your security or peace of mind? Be sure that you are following these tips to minimize your risk of becoming a victim of fraud or identity theft:

Be careful with unknown sites:  When hunting for bargains online, it’s best to begin your search at a familiar website of a trusted brand rather than by using a search engine, which can more easily lead you to a spoofed (fake) website. Some telltale signs of a scam: websites with logos that seem off in color or design and those that contain glaring misspellings and grammatical errors. If you decide to make a purchase from a merchant that you don’t know, check for a physical address and contact information. Ensure that the retailer uses SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption, which will be indicated by “https://” in the browser bar (the letter “s” is key here, so be sure it is not omitted). Also exercise caution if you don’t see an image of a padlock to the left of the URL's text or in the status bar at the bottom of your browser.

Don’t divulge too much: Keep in mind that a major factor contributing to identity theft and fraud is the growing access that criminals have to information that was once private. By complying with retailers’ requests for personal details, you’re exposing information that could potentially make you an easy target for such criminals. In general, refrain from providing any details about yourself which are not required for a transaction. As most of us know, there is no reason to give a merchant your social security number. But you also may want to think twice before giving out personal information such as your birthday. 

Keep your technology updated: To help fend off an attack from a virus or malware (malicious software used to gain control of your computer), be sure that regular updates are performed on your operating system, and that you’re using the latest versions of browsers and mobile apps at all times. It’s also a good idea to run anti-virus and anti-malware scans on your computer on a weekly basis. 

Avoid using unsecured Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi connections, such as those offered at cafes, libraries and airports, are vulnerable to attacks. While it’s fine to use these services to browse shopping sites, it’s advisable to wait until you can access a private network to enter your payment information and complete a purchase. One good alternative to using public Wi-Fi for making purchases is to use the data provided by your cellular phone instead. You may also want to consider connecting your laptop, smartphone or tablet to a VPN (virtual private network), which can provide you with a secure connection while you are out and about. To learn more, visit http://bit.ly/HTGExplainsVPN.

Use your credit card in favor of a debit card: In general, you should opt to use your credit card rather than a debit card for two major reasons. First, a debit card is a direct line to the money in your checking account, and if becomes compromised, a thief can gain quick access to your money and leave you without funds while the matter is being investigated. On the other hand, if someone steals your credit card information, the money is taken from your creditor rather than you personally, and you won’t be liable for any of it as long as you report the theft as soon as you discover it. Secondly, a credit card offers more consumer protections in the form of chargebacks. If the product you order fails to arrive or the condition or quality is poor, you have sixty days to get the charge reversed.

Review statements regularly: One of the single most important actions you can take to prevent financial losses due to online theft is to stay vigilant about activity on your credit cards and checking accounts. And the easiest way to do this is by simply checking your statements online on a routine basis for suspicious transactions.

Although there is no way to guarantee that you will never fall prey to any incidences of fraud or theft while shopping online, you can limit your exposure and greatly reduce the damage the damage that offenders can do by reporting any fraudulent charges to your bank, credit union, or other financial institution as soon as you discover them. For more information on how to keep your credit or debit cards secure, visit us at http://bit.ly/SFPCUCardSecurity.

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