ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
The holiday shopping season is now under way, and that means many people will be taking advantage of online shopping for those Christmas presents.
With that in mind, there are some precautions people should keep in mind before clicking the “Check out” button.
“An important thing to keep in mind is always place orders from a secure connection,” webroot.com noted. “If your computer isn’t protected from potentially malicious software, your financial information and passwords are at risk from being stolen (and everything else you store on your computer or do online). This concept is so basic, yet only a fraction of the U.S. population adequately protects their computers. Use a secure connection and make sure your computer’s firewall is on. If you’re shopping online while using a wireless network, it needs to be encrypted so someone who is lurking outside the house can’t collect your information. Avoid making any financial transactions when using a public network, as you may not know if it’s compromised. It’s also important to know the merchant and their reputation.
If you already know the store, shopping their online store is very safe. You can always walk into the local store for help if there’s a problem, and if you know others who have had consistently positive experiences with the online store, you can be reassured of the site’s quality. If you don’t know the store, it may still be the best bet; you just need to take a few more precautions. Conduct your own background check by looking at sites dedicated to reviewing e-stores. If the store isn’t reviewed or does not have favorable reviews, don’t order from their Web site.”
People should also trust their instincts if something seems off about an offer, according to staysafeonline.org.
“Beware of emails, texts or other promotions that seem “off” or encourage you to urgently click on links. If you receive an enticing offer, do not click on the link. Instead, go directly to the company’s web site to verify the offer is legitimate. If you can’t find it on their website, report the scam to your email provider as a phishing attempt. Remember, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is,” staysafeonline.org noted. “Fraudsters are fond of setting up fake e-commerce sites. Prior to making a purchase, read reviews to hear what others say about the merchant. Check trusted sources, like the Better Business Bureau, as well. In addition, look for a physical location and any customer service information. It’s also a good idea to call the merchant to confirm that they are legitimate.”
Webroot.com also cautioned against using too much personal information online while shopping.
The payment method being used should also be taken into consideration.
“Always use a credit card to shop as securely as possible. First, a credit card doesn’t give a seller direct access to the money in your bank account. Second, most credit cards offer $0 liability for fraud,” Lifelock noted. “That means you’re not out any money if a crook uses your account info to make a purchase. Your credit card company will ask questions, investigate the fraudulent activity and send you a new card. A virtual credit card can offer even more online shopping security. Some credit card issuers will give you a temporary card number that’s linked to your credit card account. You can use the temporary number to shop online without showing the seller your real credit card details. If a thief gets ahold of the virtual credit card number and later tries to use it, they’ll be out of luck.”
“Using a credit card is much better than using a debit card; there are more consumer protections for credit cards if something goes awry,” staysafeonline.org noted. “Or, you can use a third party payment service instead of your credit card. There are many services you can use to pay for purchases, like Google Pay, without giving the merchant your credit card information directly. Also be sure to continuously check your accounts for any unauthorized activity. Good record-keeping goes hand-in-hand with managing your cybersecurity. Another tip for monitoring activity is to set up alerts so that if your credit card is used, you will receive an email or text message with the transaction details.”