Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

Are you one of the many shoppers planning to click for holiday gifts this year? Your email inbox may already be flooded with upcoming online sales for you to peruse from the comfort of your home.  However, don’t relax your guard and let the numerous deals and distractions cloud your judgment. Some deals are too good to be true – so it’s always important to pay attention to signs that your online shopping transactions are safe and secure.

The holiday season is a lucrative time for online retailers, and cybercriminals see this as an opportunity to profit. An additional concern is bogus e-commerce websites, which are made to look legit but may steal your credit or debit card information.

Don’t be a victim of cybercrime, as you can prevent it!  Cybercrime doesn’t have to happen to you.  Shop online with a peace of mind by remaining vigilant and following these safety recommendations.

 

Online Shopping Tips

Make sure your browser is up to date
Always update to the most current version of your browser. The vulnerabilities that may have been found in previous versions are likely to have been identified and patched.

Install antivirus software and make sure to keep it updated
Antivirus software is critical.  Make sure all your computers and devices have the protection of a powerful, effective antivirus software, one that is active and kept up to date.

Stick with what you know
Sure, it’s fun to explore new websites and vendors, but it’s also a bit risky.  If you can only find the perfect gift on a little website you stumbled across, be sure to look for alternative ways to contact them before placing an order.  For example, look for a physical address or phone number.  Also, consider using a secure service like PayPal to process the payment instead of providing your credit or debit card information.

Be sure the site is secure
Before entering a credit card number, or any confidential information, make sure that the URL in your browser begins with https (instead of http), or look for a padlock icon at the beginning of the address bar.  These are indicators that your session is secure and that the site is using encryption to protect your information. This protocol is known as SSL (Secure Socket Layer).  In other words, your information is encoded and not visible to hackers.

Create strong passwords
Always use strong passwords and update them regularly. Never use the same password for multiple accounts; each account needs its own unique password.  This is especially important for accounts that contain your personal information.

Never write down or store passwords somewhere obvious.  Consider getting a password manager to store your credentials.  There are several online password managers available that will also help you generate strong passwords.

Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi connections are often unencrypted and unsecure, leaving you vulnerable.  A cybercriminal can exploit a security flaw in the Wi-Fi network to access and intercept your private information. Essentially, hackers can sniff out any information that passes between you and the websites you visit, obtaining details of browsing activities, account logins, and purchase transactions. Your sensitive information, such as passwords and financial data, are then vulnerable.

A virtual private network (VPN) creates a “secure tunnel” where data sent over a Wi-Fi connection is encrypted, making the information sent to and from your device secure and private.

Learn to spot phishing attempts and questionable deals
During the holiday season, you could receive emails advertising unbelievably great deals. Buyer Beware because these could be phishing attempts, and the email’s links could direct you to a bogus website built to capture your personal information. Have your guard up for emails and text messages advertising holiday deals that seem too good to be true — most likely, they are.

Avoid clicking on links and downloading files from any unknown email sources. If you receive an email requesting to “verify” your confidential information, DO NOT respond or click on the link!

You probably shop at Amazon.com; if you received an email with a link to Amazon.net, would you notice?  If you saw a link to Wallmart.com, would you realize it’s not the retail giant with the name is misspelled?  These are tricks that online thieves use to get you to their website and get your financial and personal information.

 

Protecting Your Packages

Once you have safely navigated your online shopping, you need to pay attention to how you are receiving your packages.  Here are some ways to protect your packages from porch pirates.

Choose pickup
Smart lockers allow you to get packages delivered to convenience stores, supermarkets, and other shops where they will be safe until you get to them.

Have packages delivered to your office
In most offices, deliveries are made when the business is open, and there is someone to receive your items.

Buy a locked container
Installed on your front porch, you post a large note telling delivery people to drop packages into the lockbox rather than leaving your parcels unprotected from the weather and thieves.

Invest in a smart doorbell camera
Configure to get a message on your smartphone when the camera detects activity at your door.  You then have options to retrieve your package.  However, you may witness the porch pirate take off with your parcel.

 

In-Store Shopping

Shopping in a store offers different challenges from cybersecurity.  Take these steps to protect yourself when you are out and about.

Hide it, take it, lock it
Car break-ins are crimes of opportunity.  Leaving packages, shopping bags, or anything of value in plain sight is an invitation to thieves.  If you can’t hide belongings in your trunk or under the seats, be sure to take them with you, and always lock your car when you leave it.

Don’t overdo it
If your arms are full of bags and boxes, you could be a target for a pickpocket or other type of thief.

Shop in the daytime
More people and more light could help you avoid shady characters and situations.