In this digital age, the best holiday sales are often right at our fingertips and braving large crowds only to end up waiting in line is a stress of the past. Online shopping is the ideal way to make purchases for many shoppers, but the trade-off for the convenience is that it can leave unsuspecting consumers at risk of becoming victims of cybercrimes when the necessary precautions are not taken. Keep the “happy” in happy holidays by taking proactive measures to ensure sensitive information stays out of the wrong hands.
1. Reset passwords and update security software.
Kick off the season by refreshing passwords. Always opt for strong passwords that utilize a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, and avoid using the same password across multiple sites and apps. It’s also a good idea to make sure anti-virus software is current and up-to-date. The most recent versions will provide the most advanced protection against ever-changing cyber threats.
2. Only shop on verified sites.
Websites that have been verified as secure, encrypt all information sent through the site including names, addresses, account numbers, etc. This means cybercriminals will not be able to interpret information if it happens to be intercepted and any personal details will remain private. There are two ways to confirm a site is secure. First, look for the “https” web address prefix (the “s” stands for “secure”). Second, look for a padlock-shaped security symbol in the address bar of the internet browser.
3. Do your research.
It’s always best to take a few minutes to learn about lesser-known businesses before finalizing an online transaction. Scope out the company’s social media accounts and browse customer reviews. Reading first-hand accounts of other consumer experiences can help provide added confidence when shopping online or the proper knowledge of when to look elsewhere.
4. Pay with a credit card.
Many credit cards offer a zero-dollar liability benefit for fraudulent charges. This means card users won’t be on the hook to pay for expenses that were incurred by a fraudster who got ahold of their credit card information. It’s also worthwhile to note that if someone does rack up unauthorized charges on a credit card, federal regulations state that required payments will be paused while the card company investigates the crime.
5. Save digital receipts and confirmation emails.
Don’t move purchase verification emails to the trash folder too quickly. Keep them accessible so if there is a discrepancy, the receipt will help to provide proof of payment and purchase details. It’s also smart to routinely monitor bank and credit card statements to make sure transactions are accurate. The quicker potential fraud can be addressed, the less likely it is to cause an extended ripple effect of financial issues.
6. Give information cautiously.
Be prudent when sharing information online. It’s a major red flag when a website requests personal information, such as a social security number. If you’re uncomfortable sharing any sort of information with an online merchant, ask if there is an alternative option available. If the integrity of the site or merchant is questionable, consider alternative payment methods aside from a credit card, such as PayPal - or find a new place to shop.
7. Don’t shop on public Wi-Fi networks.
Public networks - especially those that are not password protected - can be dangerous places to transmit sensitive information. Fraudsters are professionals at tampering with vulnerable networks in order to gather information or infect devices with ransomware. It’s best to be connected to a private Wi-Fi network that is password protected when shopping online.
During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season it can be easy to get caught up in the fun of finding an online bargain, always remember to use sound judgement whenever personal security is involved. If there is ever any concern that you may be a victim of a scam or fraud, contact Lakeland Bank immediately. We can help you with the steps to ensure your accounts are safe or provide information to regain optimal security.
You may also be interested in this article on cybersecurity: 5 Ways to Maximize Cybersecurity in Everyday Life