Security Tips For Online Shopping

Holiday season means shopping, and increasingly, shopping means shopping online. According to Deloitte, 2017 is the first year that online spending is expected to beat out spending in brick-and-mortars. It used to be that people used the internet to comparison shop, then went to buy in stores. No more.

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In Deloitte’s holiday retail survey, respondents said they planned to spend 51 percent of their money online — and only 42 percent in stores. And people who earned more than $100,000/year planned to drop at least 57 percent of their money on the internet. The younger you are, the more you’re buying online: a full 61 percent of Generation Z’s holiday cash, and 58 percent of Millennials’, will go toward online purchases.

So we’re shopping til we drop — in our pajamas. But what about fraud? There’s plenty to worry about when it comes to online shopping. Luckily, there are steps you can take to keep you — and your money — safe this holiday season.

Vary Your Passwords

This is cyber safety 101, but many people don’t practice it. If your email password is the same as your Facebook password is the same as your PayPal is the same as your Amazon password, and all of them are easy to guess, you’re making it much easier to get hacked. And when you get hacked, you can get hacked everywhere. It’s one thing for someone else to gain control of your Twitter feed. It’s quite another for them to get their grubby paws all up in your PayPal account, which is likely linked to your bank account, which is the stuff of nightmares.

Pick out a different password for every site. Make each hard to guess. If you haven’t done it already, go and do it now. Right now. We’ll wait. It might be hard to remember every single different password, so we recommend using a password manager, which is an application that remembers all your passwords and uses one single password to encrypt them all.

[Don’t know where to begin? Check out our password manager reviews of 1Password, Dashlane, and LastPass.]

Don’t Buy Stuff On Public Wi-Fi

When you send your credit card info over public wifi, it’s like sending your information over an unsecured line, as Paul Frazier, head of the cybersecurity program at Webster University, has told us before. Basically, hackers can easily pull your info out of that public line — and use it to make purchases of their own.

Don’t Let Sites Keep Your Credit Card Info

It’s really tempting, when you shop, to let a site keep your credit card info on file, especially if you use the site a ton. But your financial information, then, is only as safe as the rest of the site. And you don’t know how good the site’s security is, especially in the case of smaller businesses. If they get breached, your credit information gets breached. So even though it’s a pain, it’s safer to manually enter your credit card info each time.

[Online shopping security tips are cybersecurity tips, and more of those can be found in our article Five Simple Ways To Improve Your Cybersecurity.]

Read Your Credit Card Bills

It seems elementary. But you have to actually read the bills to know if there are charges that you need to dispute. Small business breaches often don’t make the news, and who knows if that seller decided to go on an shopping spree on your dime. You only have sixty days to dispute a charge, but you can’t dispute it if you don’t know that it exists. So as tedious as it may be, as unpleasant as it is, read your bills.

Stay Updated — In More Ways Than One

Those annoying little software updates? They often contain security updates, which keep your computer much safer. And along with keeping up with your updates, make sure you keep up with the news. You can’t know if someone has your personal information if you’re unaware of recent breaches that may affect you.

Elizabeth Broadbent

Elizabeth Broadbent

Elizabeth Broadbent lives in a medium-sized city in the South with her three children, three dogs, and patient husband. She works as a staff writer for Scary Mommy, and her writing has been featured in The Washington Post and on Time.com.

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