Following these consumer security best practices for online shopping will help you get through the holiday season securely as well as avoid shopping scams, prevent theft of your personal data, and secure your credit card information.  

Kate, a mother of three, couldn’t contain her excitement for shopping during the holiday season when she received an email offer from one of her favorite online retailers for 50% off plus free shipping on her next order. As any excited consumer might do, she clicked on the link where it took her to the site’s browsing page, selected her items, then checked out as usual by putting in her credit card, billing, and shipping information. 

After a few weeks, she received no notifications from the retailer on the status of her order. Instead, she got a call from her credit card company notifying her that some potentially fraudulent activity was happening. She was able to confirm the activity was, in fact, fraudulent and canceled her credit card. Kate had become a victim to an online shopping scam by a phishing email that took her to a spoofed website to harvest her credit card information.  

As we enter the holiday season, it’s critical to understand that the increased website traffic for shopping online is also an ample opportunity for cybercriminals and scammers to take full advantage of those unprepared. But fear not, while cyber threats are always going to be out there targeting consumers, there are plenty of things you can do this season to stay ahead of the scammers and help with consumer security.  

8 Ways to Protect Yourself While Online Shopping 

Avoid Email Links When Possible 

Most of these shopping scams will be delivered via email and may replicate the actual URL while only being off by a character or two. This means that whenever possible, avoid links directly from the email message. When in doubt, you can always manually go to the company’s website by typing in their URL and seeing if the special promotion is legitimate. 

Avoid Using Debit Cards  

As you make purchases online, try to use credit cards as much as possible or use a secure payment service such as PayPal. Avoid debit cards as they offer a direct channel of funding from your checking account and the personal information associated with the bank account. Also, you may not be reimbursed for fraudulent charges on a debit card as you would a credit card.    

Monitor Your Credit Card Activity

While using your credit card for online purchases, continuously monitor the card’s activity and report any transactions you don’t recall placing. Make sure this activity is tracked throughout the holiday season and months after, as a criminal could have your credit card information but not act on it until after the buying season. 

Practice Safe Internet Posture

While browsing the internet and navigating to various online stores, follow some basic best practices while using the internet. This includes avoiding non-secure websites by only using URLs that have HTTPS in the beginning, signifying that your device’s data is encrypted while connected to that website. 

Avoid Public Wi-Fi

While online shopping, you’ll want to avoid the use of free, public Wi-Fi as fake, unsecured networks can be created for the sole purpose of stealing your data. Try to do all of your online shopping while connected to your own private network or one that belongs to a trusted friend or family member.  

Keep Your Operating Systems Up-to-Date

Whenever iOS, macOS, Windows, or Android ask you to make an update, it’s all for a good reason. Most operating system updates are specifically for security enhancements. For instance, more times than not, the updates are patching software vulnerabilities or detecting a new type of malware, possibly one that’s deployed by a phony online shopping scam.  

Practice Password Management Discipline

Because many online stores require you to create a customer account, make sure you utilize some vital password management practices for those credentials. This means using 8-15 characters with upper case, lower case, numeric, and special character combinations. Avoid personal information in your passwords, recycling passwords, and using the same password for multiple online accounts. Also, don’t share your passwords with anyone, and try changing them every few months. 

Only Use Reputable Retailers 

Online sites like Amazon and eBay allow individuals to sell their personal items, which opens up other risks related to online shopping. Try avoiding those with no activity or poor reviews, as it could be a purchasing scam where you don’t get what you truly paid for.       

Want to Learn More? 

The realm of cybersecurity and consumer security is broad and ever-evolving. Learn more about cybersecurity strategies and best practices by checking out our cybersecurity news and insights blog. You can also contact our security professionals to help you on your journey to creating an elaborate cybersecurity program for your organization.   

Written by AGT Cybersecurity Practitioners

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