It’s holiday shopping season once again! Shop.org predicts that nearly $82 million dollars of merchandise will be spent at online retailers during the months of November and December this year. While online shopping offers benefits such as 24 hour shopping convenience, a wider variety of goods available, and the ability to shop for the lowest price, it can also prove harmful due to potential security risks.
Here are a few pointers to keep your shopping experience a safe one.
1. Before you start, ensure that your anti-virus and anti-malware programs are updated. Many software programs can be set to automatically update. This wold be a good time to make sure your automatic update feature is activated. In addition, viruses can change quickly so make sure to use a program designed to detect newly created or mutated threats before their signature becomes part of the automatic updates.
2. Check and optimize your security settings. Many malicious programs look to detect and exploit security vulnerabilities in operating systems and web browsers. You can run System Mechanic’s Security Optimizer which finds and repairs security vulnerabilities.
3. Use a credit card instead of a debit card. You can dispute fraudulent charges made with your credit card without putting at risk your own money. Money withdrawn from your bank account by using a debit card is much more difficult to recover.
4. Keeping with that thought. Be aware of your credit card issuer’s policy on fraudulent charges. Does your credit card company tell you if fraudulent charges are suspected? If not, you may want to consider another company. Search for credit cards that cover you 100% in case of losses due to fraud.
5. Shop secure sites this way. Many sites use SSL (secured sockets layer) to encrypt information. Stick with URLs (uniform resource locator) that begin with https: rather than http:. Look for the padlock icon or key symbol at the bottom of your browser window before you make a purchase.
6. If you are going to use sites like Amazon or Ebay where private sellers are involved you can avoid sellers engaging in fraudulent activities by reviewing the site’s customer rating systems. No rating – RUN.
7. DO NOT click on retail website links that you receive in an email. Scammers create similar looking websites that look exactly like the official retailer you are trying to shop at. Instead of clicking that link. Type the vendors website address in your browser instead.
8. If you are uncertain about a particular website there are multiple consumer reviews websites to review for positive or negative experiences. If you can’t find a review, search for another retailer.
9. Password changes are a must. Change them and do it often and never use the same passwords on multiple sites. If your personal information is acquired, a thief won’t get very far if you use unique passwords and user names on different websites.
10. Check your monthly statements and transaction history on your credit card and bank accounts before the bill shows up. If you do not recognize charges on your bank statement or credit card this can often be an indication of identity theft. If this happens contact your bank or card issuer immediately. Your bank can take certain steps to protect you by immediately locking the account down and issuing you a new card. Always ask what you can do to keep your information secure.
You are now empowered to have a great time shopping with peace of mind. Have a wonderful holiday shopping season!