These days, going to a store to buy something might feel like a hassle — most prefer internet purchases. In fact, a recent study shows that 80% of Americans are shopping online, a number that keeps going up. Unfortunately, it means cybercriminals are becoming more advanced, too, making it equally important to stay safe while shopping online. Here are some tips to help prepare you for the virtual battle against identity theft and credit card fraud.
Sometimes the best deals aren’t on popular sites such as Amazon or eBay. But if you’re visiting one for the first time, do your research. Look up reviews and check out the company’s reputation before entering any information. And trust your feelings: if it’s a strange URL, has a dated look, is loaded with excessive pop-ups or anything else that seems shady, it’s probably worth going somewhere more credible.
Also, look for https:// at the start of the web address. This lets you know they encrypt sensitive data and keep your information private. Browsers additionally display green boxes & text or lock icons in the address bar when the connection is secure. Using official company apps on mobile devices also ensures better security.
Fortifying your Defenses
You are your own first line of defense against hackers. For example, avoid buying over public Wi-Fi connections and remember to keep your browsers updated to prevent breaches.
Don’t offer more information than necessary when creating accounts or checking out — only enter the required fields. If a company wants more than that, walk away. No reputable store will ask for your Social Security number or PIN. If you do create accounts, use secure passwords and change them periodically.
Credit card purchases are common & safe options, with automatic protections built in. You can also put an extra layer of security between you and vendors with systems like PayPal. Plus, America First provides Visa® cards that come with free identity theft recovery services in case you’re ever a victim.
Defending your Stronghold
Once you buy, keep an eye on your account for the transaction to clear. Using free online banking regularly is a good way to avoid any unwanted charges. Also, file your email receipts in a dedicated folder. That way, you won’t be fooled by spammy emails about fake purchases.
If you get a message about something you didn’t buy, don’t click on any links. You can also spot scams by looking at the sender’s address. If it says Google, but the email is coming from email@example.com, you can safely assume it’s fraudulent. To confirm if it’s legit, go to the company’s site and contact their support team.
Finally, if you suspect any breach or compromise, contact your financial institution immediately. With all the threats out there, it’s hard to feel completely safe while shopping online. But if you do your research, take proper precautions and stay on guard, you can avoid many of these virtual pitfalls.