Avoid Cyber Grinches: 9 Online Holiday Shopping Safety Tips
By: Lindsey Fredericks
Online shopping has steadily been on the rise for the last decade and grown even faster as a result of the pandemic. It’s a convenient way to gain access to millions of products from thousands of stores all over the world, all from the comfort of your own home.
But with the rise in online shopping, so too has the growth of scams and cyber fraud. As we approach the holiday season, we’re sharing how to avoid online scams while buying gifts, decor, and more.
There are many reasons why people choose to shop online but convenience is typically the one that tops the list. It’s incredibly easy to search for, order, confirm payment, and see shipping updates on products all from your computer or smartphone.
There’s also a wider selection of products available online than in stores. This is especially true since the pandemic, as many local stores have closed or moved to smaller locations to save on operating costs. A full product range may no longer be accessible in stores, whereas a store’s website can show everything on offer at once.
Prices can often be more competitive online too. Deals on days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday may happen online and not in the store, so customers are able to get a much better price for products than if they shopped offline.
There’s plenty of debate around online shopping safety and, generally, it is safe to do. But you always need to practice good online safety habits and know what to look out for before putting your financial information into any website. Here are some of the best online holiday shopping safety tips for this year:
Wherever possible, it’s best to make your purchases on a private Wi-Fi network at home or use a virtual private network (VPN) when connecting to public Wi-Fi. It’s also a good idea to not use public devices in libraries, schools, or at work when you’re doing your online shopping.
Private networks are only for trusted devices and make it much harder for scammers and hackers to access your information on that network. Public Wi-Fi, though, is what you typically find in shops, restaurants, hotels, and airports. Anyone can connect to these networks, which makes them riskier.
Try to stick to companies and websites that you’ve bought from previously. If you’re trying a new website or going back to a business after a long time, make sure their site is secure before entering your payment information.
Check for a padlock icon in your browser tab to confirm that the site has a valid security certificate and look for any typos or something that seems out of place if you aren’t sure you’re on the right website.
If you have any questions or concerns about the safety of a website, contact the company directly or move onto another online store to make your purchase.
Sites like eBay, Amazon, and Etsy all feature third-party and independent sellers from all over the world. There’s a good chance you’ll be buying from a seller you’re not familiar with, so look for fake reviews or anything suspicious before you go ahead with your order. If something seems too good to be true, it may be better and safer to look for the same product somewhere else.
If you do choose to continue with your order, always keep communication between yourself and the seller on the app or website itself. For instance, if you message a seller on Amazon, keep all communication on Amazon. Never pay the seller directly and always complete transactions through the platform itself.
Make sure any shopping apps you have installed on your smart devices are kept up-to-date. This means you’ll have all the latest security features and any bugs that have occurred in the app should have been fixed by the developers.
Scammers will often exploit app bugs to target users for cyber fraud, so it’s essential that you’re frequently checking for these updates and installing them when there’s a new version of the app.
Always set up security alerts on all of your cards, especially if they’re stored in apps, to be alerted if suspicious activity takes place.
No matter what site you’re using, always create a strong password for your accounts. You may be tempted to reuse the same password for every shopping account you have but avoid this temptation.
Think about using a password manager and random generator to create the most secure passwords possible. You should also use two-factor authentication wherever you can, especially with financial sites. This means that you need to identify yourself (usually though a text or email code) before logging into your account.
One of the biggest cybercrimes is phishing. This is where scammers target people with email, text, or phone calls and pretend to be a legitimate authority like a financial institution or the government. They then lure individuals to hand over sensitive information, like their banking details or personally identifiable information like a social security number.
Always stay alert for too good to be true ads online or in your inbox, even from sellers you think you recognize. Scammers will impersonate large brands to encourage you to trust them, so it’s always best to go to a business’s site directly instead of clicking on an ad.
You may also see an increase in shopping emails around the holiday season. Fake Amazon emails are a particularly popular scam, so be aware of fake order, locked account, or gift card scams that may be emailed to you. This isn’t limited to Amazon by any means. Any retailer can be impersonated by a scammer, so never click on anything that seems suspicious.
Tracking your purchases is not only helpful for budgeting, but also to stay alert for possible fraud on your accounts. If you can a “recent order” email from a retailer who you know you’ve not shopped from in a while, there’s a very good chance that that email is a scam.
It’s also good to track your purchases to know when you’ve not received an order that you did genuinely place. You can follow up with a retailer and let them know so that they can either refund you or resend your purchases.
If you come across any online scams, you should always report these. Not only does this help prevent you from becoming a victim of online fraud, but it also means that other people could be safer as a result of your actions.
You can report online scams to the Federal Trade Commission, the FBI, or your local police. If you think you’ve been a victim of online fraud, contact your bank straight away to freeze your accounts and prevent hackers from accessing your money.
At Citizens Savings Bank, we take the safety and security of your personal information and finances very seriously. To learn more about how we protect you and to educate yourself on fraud and scams, visit our security tips resource center.
Citizens Savings Bank has multiple locations throughout Lackawanna, Wayne, and Monroe Counties. For branch locations and hours, visit our website. We also have a Customer Support Team ready to answer any questions you may have. Call us today at 1.800.692.6279 or email [email protected]. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.