Eight ways to be a safer online shopper

By Joshua Everton, VP, eSolutions, Bank of American Fork

My father recently told me that he went to the local drug store to pick up some gift cards for co-workers. He was a retailer for many years, so he noticed which retailers were popular, for example half of the gift card display was reserved for one predominant online retailer. All of the gift cards in varying amounts were sold out for that retailer, and only the gift cards for brick and mortar shops were still available.

Online shopping is part of daily life for many of us. We can purchase just about anything with a click of a mouse or right from our mobile phones. This convenience may be life changing for individuals and retailers, but the change in our purchasing habits has also caught the attention of cybercriminals. Cybercriminals steal information that can lead to financial loss. Perhaps holiday gift shopping made you more aware of the risk of sharing your information with various retailers.

Here are some ways to help protect your information when you’re shopping online (or even using the internet for something else).

Stick with reputable sites. Use trusted websites or visit retailers that you are already familiar with.

Make sure the website is secure. Secure sites begin with “https.” The “s” means the website provides data encryption to secure your information. Make sure the site is secure before you enter any information and you’re already beginning to protect yourself.

Don’t use unsecured Wi-Fi for online shopping. Cybercriminals can use malicious or unsecured Wi-Fi networks to capture your information or to access your devices. Always use a password protected network that you are familiar with when you are shopping online.

Never provide more information than you are comfortable with online. The information you provide generally should be limited to billing, shipping and payment information. Be suspicious of any additional information other than what is required to make a purchase.

Avoid clicking links in emails without carefully confirming the sender’s email address. Cybercriminals can send emails from email addresses that look similar to sites you use. They can fool you into clicking links that take you to a fake website or install a virus on your device. If an email from a retailer promising a great promotion looks suspicious in any way, use the retailer’s mobile app or type their website URL directly into your browser without clicking the email link.

Consider using a credit card when making purchases online. Although both debit and credit card purchases can be disputed if you don’t recognize the charge, debit card fraud can temporarily drain your checking account if there are fraudulent purchases. If you use a debit or credit card for online purchases, keep in mind that many cards also offer advanced fraud monitoring to help alert you to suspicious activity and stop theft early.

Think about other payment solutions. There are mobile wallets or payment solutions that can help you limit the number of retailers you’re sharing personal information with. Many payment solutions and mobile wallets share only a part of your financial information with the retailer or seller. Here’s more information about payment solutions.

Keep your mobile device and computer updated. Always install the latest security and software patches. It is important to install anti-virus and malware software to prevent criminal access to your internet device.

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