The holiday shopping season is in full swing, with more and more shopping online, for a variety of reasons – avoiding the crowds in the mall, getting all your shopping done in a few minutes instead of hours of walking and driving from store to store, not having to worry about what the kids are doing while you’re shopping. More people are shopping online than in brick-and-mortar stores thinking they’re staying safe from being mugged in the parking lot, having their credit cars stolen or their identities taken. But is that really true? According to Pete Tyrrell, chief operating officer of Digital Guardian, a top data protection company, “The Pandora’s box of cyberattacks is about to open. The cybercriminals are getting more and more creative – and at the end of the day, it’s your personal information at risk.”
The best way to keep your identity to yourself and protect your bank account is to go off the grid, never go shopping and if you do, only pay with cash. For obvious reasons, that’s impractical for the majority of people. The second best way to avoid being the victim of crime while holiday shopping is to just not do it, wait until after the holidays and give gifts at non-traditional times. In these days of “cyber” being everywhere you go, there’s almost no way to be 100-percent sure you won’t be the victim of crime.
For those doing their shopping in the next month, let’s look at how you can best protect yourself online.
One of the best ways to avoid getting cyberhacked when shopping is to only shop on reputable, trustworthy sites. Shopping where you’ve always shopped online without a problem can be your first line to keeping your identity and bank account safe. International online retailers, like Amazon.com, and the online versions of your favorite stores, like Target, Wal-Mart and mall stores, have the most security and are safest, at least for now. Unless super hackers get into the servers of those companies, you’re more likely to be safe than sorry.
Here are some other tips from top online security companies:
- Stay away from free WiFi. When your identity and bank account are at risk, don’t use WiFi, especially at the mall. Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance, says, “People may want to log onto their Best Buy or Amazon accounts to check prices, but open WiFi is probably the least secure place to do that.” He also recommends never using open WiFi to check your bank account or credit card balances.
- Be aware of who is around you. Even if you’re checking prices or your accounts on your smartphone, without connecting to the WiFi, there may be those around you who are watching what you’re doing; they can pick up your account number and/or your password.
- Check email addresses on promotional emails. Hackers will use email addresses close to the ones used by your favorite online retailers to get you to click on a link that promises savings, while getting hold of your information. Better yet, don’t respond to any “sale” emails; shop only at stores you actively go into on your own.
- Check your credit card and bank accounts daily. Report any suspicious activity, especially if it’s a very low amount. Hackers will sometimes deposit or withdraw just a few cents to make sure they have the right credit or debit card info before they go in for the big money.
- Buy from a pre-prepared list. Don’t be tempted to buy something that pops up on an ad on your Facebook page or other favorite site just because it looks like a good “deal.” More than likely, it’s only a good deal for the person grabbing your information.
Staying safe online is almost more important than staying safe in the store parking lot; both can mean the difference between financial life and financial ruin. For more information on staying safe online, check out StaySafeOnline.org.