Online shopping has quickly moved from a luxury to a necessity these days … and cybercriminals couldn’t be happier about all those financial transactions flowing through the Internet. What can you do to make sure your online shopping experience is safe from those prying eyes?

First and foremost, it’s important to “Think before you click.” Don’t get caught up in the shopping moment and get careless. Before each click, pause and look for caution signs like some of those mentioned below:

    1. Stick with secure vendor sites and vendors. How can you tell? Look at the URL at the top of the page and make be sure it starts with “https” not “http.” The “s” indicates a secure website. You should also see a little padlock icon in the address bar.
    2. Make sure you’re dealing with genuine apps. Store apps can be spoofed, so only download an app from the legitimate store website or from your app store that indicates it has high ratings and has been around for a reasonable length of time.
    3. Pay with a credit card, PayPal, or a disposable prepaid credit card. With each of these payment methods, you can limit your losses if the account number is stolen. Don’t use a debit card, because that can become a wide-open gateway into your checking account.
    4. Only shop on your secure home network and on your own device. The public networks at coffee shops or airports or similar locations can expose you to cybercriminal activity.
    5. Don’t click on a store link you receive in an email or see in an online ad. Type the website name in yourself. Along the same lines, if you’re looking for items online using a keyword search, take a minute to look at the websites that come up on the results page before you click. Scammers can produce sites that look very genuine, but the name may be spelled slightly different.
    6. Watch out for emails that ask you to “confirm your purchase” and maybe even confirm your payment method. Reputable e-tailers will confirm the purchase to you, not ask you to do it.
    7. Maintain strong passwords for your store accounts and resist the temptation to use the same password for multiple stores.
    8. Try to avoid storing your credit card information on the store’s site. Yes, it’s convenient but if the store’s computers are compromised, that information could get into the wrong hands.

 

And here’s a bonus tip – not necessarily security-related. Establish a free, dedicated email account to use when you shop online. Online purchases can trigger all kinds of follow-up promotional emails, from that store and others. It’s nice to keep those out of your primary email inbox.

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