Malware. Phishing. Straight up identity theft. These are just a few of the ways cyber crooks look to separate you from your cash. But shopping for holiday gifts online is a phenomenon that is not going away. After all, there are no long lines, fistfights over the latest toy craze, or creepy mall Santas to contend with. And despite the raging paranoia the media tries to infect Internet shoppers with each year, a handful of simple precautions goes a long way towards a safe experience. Here are 5 safe online shopping tips to keep in mind:
Unsafe Email Links
You just received an official-looking email offering a 99% discount on festive widgets from [insert your favorite big box retailer here]. Click on the link and off you go. Wait! Double check the link. The offer might be legit or it might be a phishing scam where some neer-do-well has set up a web page, or entire site mimicking said big box store for the sole purpose of stealing your credit card information. Just Google the store or type the store’s URL into the address bar to make sure you are taken to the actual website. If you don’t see the widget sale listed, congratulations. You just avoided being scammed.
Be a Savvy Searcher
In a similar vein, any criminal with a little bit of web savvy and SEO chops can get his or her financial-information-scraping website to rank high in the search results. You should always skim these listings with at least a little suspicion. Double check the URL! For safe online shopping, you’re better off typing whichever store you seek directly into the address bar.
Use Credible Apps
Apps for your mobile device are a retailer’s (and shopper’s) dream come true. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t download yours from a sketchy source. A hacker can create an app that looks great but acts rotten. If you have the misfortune of installing a malicious app, you might as well take out an ad broadcasting your financial information. For apps, stick to places like Android Market, Apple App Store, and Amazon App Store. The vast majority of places you want to shop will have their apps available in these locations.
Shop from Safety
No matter how much you may love your local coffee shop, public wi-fi networks can be a bad idea when it comes to online holiday shopping. These networks are notoriously hacker-friendly. With the right tools, that innocent-looking guy over there sipping on his sixth latte just might be scooping up everyone’s sensitive financial data with an electronic shovel. Don’t be his next victim. Safe online shopping from home on a (hopefully) secured network is the way to go.
Check for SSL – Secure Sockets Layer
Never buy anything online without visually confirming that the website has deployed Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology to protect your data. Simply put, SSL assures you that the transaction is oodles safer due to the implementation of the latest encryption technology. You don’t have to be a techno-geek to make this determination. The URL should start with HTTPS:// rather than the standard HTTP://. See that extra “s” in there? It makes all the difference. You also should see a locked padlock icon either in the address bar at the top of the page or the status bar below.
None of this stuff is hard to do, people! Just use your brain and you’ll be fine. A final bit of advice – never, never, never send your credit card information through email. We’d love to talk about how we can help with your finances. Why not contact us today?