How To Stay Safe When Shopping Online During Holidays
Beware the (Virtual) Grinch!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! You’re feeling generous. You’re stocking up on festive tidbits and amazing gifts. You’re browsing for the killer New Year’s Eve outfit. Every year, more and more of us do our holiday shopping online.
But in the buzz of excitement, it’s easy to forget that scammers and identity thieves don’t take time off for festivities. It’s as important as ever to be vigilant about how and where you splash the cash on the web.
At the bare minimum, it’s wise to have a well-regarded antivirus software installed to pick up any malware you may accidentally download by clicking on a dodgy link. To really stay secure, you’ll need to even go a little bit further.
Here’s how to stop internet Grinches from stealing your Christmas.
Protect Your Privacy
Worried about people capturing your personal, payment or banking details as you shop online? You’re right to – it’s a BIG issue.
The very best way to tackle this is to invest in an internet security suite that comes with a two-way firewall. This filters everything that’s being uploaded and downloaded from the web, making it all but impossible for hackers to infiltrate your device and capture your vital info as you do you stop online. Many packages from top antivirus providers also come with things like password managers to protect your PINs and passwords from outside eyes, too.
Virtual private networks (VPNs) are another great buy for the super privacy-conscious. These disguise your IP address, meaning sites can’t track your location. It adds another layer of protection and limits cookies, preventing against pesky retargeted ads. There’s nothing more deflating than spending hours researching the perfect, unique surprise present for someone, only to have Google give the game away by advertising it back to them when they jump on the computer after you!
If you don’t have a VPN, turn on private browsing or Incognito mode to stop your Secret Santa efforts showing up in your search history, too.
Look for the Lock
It’s all very well turning your own computer into Fort Knox, but it all goes out of the window if the site you’re buying from plays fast and loose with your sensitive data.
As an absolute minimum, look out for the padlock symbol in the search bar when you’re using an online store. This lock should be closed, and the start of the site’s URL should also change from http:// to https://.
These two indicators mean that a site is secure.
Phishing Scams and Fake Sites
Spotted an amazing bargain on an online auction site? You know what your mother would say: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Fake auction sites are just one of many types of phishing scams that proliferate at this time of year, so be really careful about handing over your card details unless you’re 100% sure it’s legit.
Oh, and keep an eye out for all the usual suspects, like fake emails claiming to be from your bank, PayPal, a store, etc.
Pay with Your Credit Card – or PayPal
Finally, think carefully about what method you use to pay for goods online.
Credit cards are a good choice (especially over debit cards), because they come with fraud protection, meaning that you can generally get your money back if someone clones your card or steals your details for unauthorized purchases. PayPal is also great, as transactions are encrypted.
Don’t Shop on Public WiFi
The trouble with an unsecured WiFi network is that anyone on it with the right technical knowhow can look through the window into your device. Some antivirus packages offer tools to protect your privacy when you’re on public WiFi, which prevent anyone from stealing your personal and payment details.
If you don’t have these on your device, stick to data or wait until you’re using a secure/private network before you place your order!