November brings two of the busiest shopping days of the year, plus some potential security risks even if you never leave the comfort of your home. Follow these quick tips to help protect your personal information and make shopping safer this season.
Beware of incredible deals from unknown merchants.
People shop on Black Friday and Cyber Monday because that’s when they can often find the best deals of the year. These are also popular times for criminals to prey on unsuspecting shoppers. Cyber thieves cleverly take cues from the best-selling items to create fake sites or social media posts offering too good to be true deals. This is a form of phishing used in identity theft and a common way for crooks to steal your credit card number and other personal information.
A Better Business Bureau (BBB) logo on a merchant’s site isn’t always proof of a legitimate affiliation. To be sure, it’s best to verify directly with the BBB. You can also conduct your own online research to see if there have been any complaints or fraud allegations against a company.
Only trust secure sites.
If you do an online search for an item and discover a great deal, only click on known, trusted vendors. Otherwise, you risk your credit card security, and you may even be vulnerable to getting a nasty computer virus or malware. This may affect not only your computer, but also those of your contacts.
If you decide to buy online, only trust reputable sites with a secure SSL checkout. Secure site addresses start with “https” instead of “http” and often have a padlock or unbroken key icon to indicate they are protected.
Enable two-step verification.
Two-step verification, also known as dual authentication, adds an extra layer of security to your account by preventing anyone from accessing or using your account, even if they know your password. Here’s how it works: Typically, you sign in with your password and must enter an additional code that’s sent to your phone to complete the login.
Avoid shopping via WiFi.
Wireless technology makes having internet access more convenient, but it also makes your information more vulnerable. Many wireless access points, like WiFi hotspots, are unsecured and provide minimal protection against hackers.
Only confirm your order details directly through the retailer’s site.
Criminals are crafty, and it doesn’t take much for them to create a convincing email that looks like it’s actually coming from your trusted retailer. Occasionally, these fake emails will tip you off with poor grammar, typos, or incorrect account information. Unless you’re 100% certain the email is legitimate, don’t click on any links. These links could potentially allow hackers to install spyware on your computer, and give them access to your private information.
Set up feedback on your accounts.
You can choose to be notified by your bank and credit card company by text, email, or phone for a variety of reasons. They will often contact you if they notice suspicious credit card activity or when your checking account balance dips below a minimum level. These alerts can help you keep tabs on your debit/credit card activity and a signal you to know immediately if someone else is accessing your personal account.
Use digital wallets.
Each year, more people use mobile payment technology to make non-card transactions when paying at the register. The advantage is simple: You don’t have to carry around credit cards that you could easily lose. Instead, your mobile device contains encrypted account information that allows you to make seamless transactions at the retailer.
Watch out for skimming.
Skimmers are small devices that can scan and store credit card data from the magnetic stripe. Dishonest store employees who may have been hired to help during the busy holiday shopping season can scan your card at the register and then swipe it through their own small, handheld skimmers. Once the card is run through the skimmer, the data is recorded, and these thieves can sell your information, at which point counterfeit cards are made. Watch for cashiers who ask to swipe your card for you, turn their backs to you when they swipe your card, or temporarily walk away with your card.
Never leave your purse, wallet, or shopping bags unattended.
Even in today’s cyber world, old-fashioned stealing is still common. Quick-handed and skilled thieves can grab wallets and disappear in seconds. If you’re not careful, pickpockets can also easily steal items directly from your shopping bags. Stay aware of your surroundings, and never leave your purse, wallet, or shopping bags in an unattended cart, on a countertop, or on a bench.