15 Tips for Safe Holiday Online Shopping
This article was originally posted on Lifelock, an identity theft protection company. This year more people are shopping online than ever and I just wanted to remind everyone to be safe while doing the Holiday Online Shopping.
In 2016, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received nearly 300,000 online-theft complaints. Victims lost a total of $1.3 billion. That’ll put a dent in your budget.
Don’t let fake companies and identity thieves dampen your holiday spirit. Before you click the ‘Buy’ button this holiday season, check out these tips to help you enjoy safer online shopping.
1. Shop at websites you trust
Expect a record year for online holiday spending this year. But shopping IRL—in real life—offers one advantage: You can usually be sure the business and the inventory exist. On the web, some businesses are fabricated by people who just want your credit card information and other personal details. To play it safe, consider doing online business only with retailers you trust and have shopped with before.
2. Check out the business
Did you find the perfect gift on an unfamiliar website? Break out your detective skills whenever you want to buy something from a new merchant. Does the company interact with a social media following? What do its customer reviews say? Does it have a history of scam reports or complaints at the Better Business Bureau? Take it one step further by contacting the business. If there’s no email address, phone number or address for a brick-and-mortar location, that could be a signal that it’s a fake company.
3. Beware rock-bottom prices
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other big sales along the way have become a tradition of holiday shopping. But if a website offers something that looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Compare prices and pictures of the merchandise at similar websites. Rock-bottom prices could be a red flag that the business doesn’t have those items in stock. The website may exist only to get your personal information. Bah humbug!
4. Avoid public Wi-Fi
You might be tempted to take your shopping spree to a coffee shop for a cup of joe. Keep in mind, Wi-Fi networks use public airwaves. With a little tech know-how and the freely available Wi-Fi password at your favorite cafe, someone can intercept what you’re looking at on the web. Shopping online usually means giving out information that an identity thief would love to grab, including your name and credit card information. Bottom line: It’s never a good idea to shop online or log in to any website while you’re connected to public Wi-Fi.
5. Use a VPN
Still can’t resist the lure of shopping online while sipping that peppermint latte? If you must shop online on public Wi-Fi, consider installing and using a VPN—short for “virtual private network”—on all mobile devices and computers before connecting to any Wi-Fi network. A VPN creates an encrypted connection between your smartphones and computers and the VPN server. Think of it as a secure tunnel your Internet traffic travels through while you browse the web, making your data safer from interception by nearby hackers.