The holiday season is upon us. Between putting up your tree, baking, and decorating, you shop for gifts for those special people in your life. But with work and other responsibilities, it can be difficult to find time to go to brick-and-mortar stores to purchase presents. And there are some goods that you can’t find in local stores. In today’s digital age, it’s easier than ever to buy what you need online. And online shopping is especially popular around the holiday season.
But if you’re planning to shop online for deals, you should make sure that you’re protected from fraud. Beware of online security threats and use these fraud protection tips to keep your money safe.
1. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
You found an awesome deal—a product you intend to buy is 80% off online! You can’t believe it. What a score. Beware, if it seems like too good of a deal, it probably is. Take care to research online-only stores before you buy anything from them for the first time, especially if you’ve never heard of the store before. You could end up getting ripped off. Your product will never come to your door and you’ll have wasted money. Be diligent in your company research to protect yourself from fraud.
2. Look for the lock symbol.
Have you ever noticed that little lock symbol on websites’ web addresses? That means that you’re on a secure site that has SSL protection. What this means is that the connection is secure and everything that you’re communicating to the website—like your credit card number—is safe. The website and your web browser are encrypted. Don’t see the lock symbol? Don’t give out any personal information and find a more secure site to purchase from so you don’t become a victim of fraud.
3. Be smart with your passwords.
If you use online banking, make sure your password is virtually un-guessable. If you’re asked to sign up and create an account on a site before making a purchase, make sure your password is unique. Use different passwords for different sites and change them often. No birthdays or passwords that are easy to figure out, like “12345.” Don’t make it easy for cyber scammers to get your financial information. Developing good password habits can save you a lot of grief—and money.
4. Shop online with a second, low-limit credit card.
If your primary credit card has a high limit, then consider getting a second card with a lower limit for online shopping. That way, if anyone does end up stealing your identity and maxing out your card, it won’t be as disastrous and it won’t be such a big deal to cancel it.
5. Consider your network connection.
If you’re going to shop online, do it from home—or even the office. What you shouldn’t do, though, is to online shop from that cute little coffee shop down the street from you. Free WiFi cannot be trusted—it’s too easy for scammers to hack into it and steal information.
6. Pay attention to your bank statements.
If you don’t make it a habit to check your bank statements regularly and end up just tossing them in the recycling bin, make sure to actually pay attention come January. Any charge—even the smallest charge—that you don’t remember making can be a big red flag of fraud. Notify your bank immediately to report fraudulent unknown charges.
7. Don’t give out your personal information so freely.
A reputable dealer with a reputable website will never ask you for your financial information if you didn’t initiate the interaction. Don’t give out your information via email, text, or phone if prompted out of the blue. If you’re ever in doubt and suspicious, call up the company’s head office before responding to any information requests.