Going online to buy is becoming second nature to most consumers. The U.S. Census Bureau reports online retails sales for the third quarter of 2016 are estimated to be 101.3 billion dollars. That’s an increase of 4 percent from the previous quarter.
The downside to this e-commerce upswing is scammers who are, of course, out in full force during peak shopping seasons. The chaos that accompanies getting ready for the holidays while managing your career and family at the same time can lead to people being sloppy with their personal information. Consider five things to keep in mind to stay safe when holiday shopping online.
1. It’s a Good Time to Use the Credit Card
During the holiday season when you are doing more shopping than usual, consider using a credit card instead of your usual debit card. Credit cards offer the best fraud protection when shopping online because you can dispute the charges before you actually pay for anything. The money in your bank account stays right where it belongs if a hacker gets hold of your numbers or even if you buy a product online that fails to show up at your door.
You can dispute a debit card purchase but there is no guarantee the bank will refund the money to you right away. That is especially dangerous if a hacker starts buying gifts on your dime and suddenly you have overdrafts.
2. Stick With What You Know
Peak shopping season is a poor time to start trying out new vendors. Stick with websites that are familiar to you when buying gifts. Most have proven security features in place and you know what you are getting. If you do decide to try a new company, research them first. Check out online reviews. No reviews or bad reviews tell you to keep looking.
3. Keep a Tight Lid on Your Personal Information
No online shopping venue needs your social security number during checkout. There are very few reasons to give out your birth date, too. Be wary on any e-commerce site that asks for extraneous personal information. Credit card number, expiration date, billing address and security number are about all any vendor needs to process a payment.
4. Stay Secure
Do your shopping on your secure wireless network instead of at the local coffee shop or even at work. That’s good advice any time of the year. You have no expectation of privacy on a public network. Feel free to check your Facebook messages while in line waiting for your mocha latte but leave the gift buying for when you at home behind a personal firewall.
5. Be Wary of Emails About Package Shipments
You are expecting a delivery, so you will probably get emails providing you with delivery details. If you get one that asks for you to confirm your credentials or credit card information, don’t respond. The shipping company isn’t going to need your credit card details after your package ships, so the email is probably a scam. If in doubt, contact the company by phone to confirm.
Cyber criminals come up with more innovative ways each year to steal personal information. You can avoid being a victim and still enjoy the convenience of shopping online by just paying attention to pitfalls that can cost you this holiday season.