Purchasing holiday gifts online curled up under a blanket and sipping hot chocolate sure beats braving the elements and shopping crowds sometimes.
But with the added convenience of online shopping comes some increased risk of valuable information being stolen, such as credit card numbers or your account log in information for online retailers.
With the holiday season and Cyber Monday upon us, here are 5 easy tips to keep in mind when making any online purchase:
1. Make sure the device you are using is secure.
Use an antivirus program that is set to automatically update. It is also a best practice to install all the latest updates of your operating system as well as updates to all programs you have installed. Apple, Microsoft, and other software providers regularly release updates to protect against all types of security risks.
2. Make sure the wireless network you’re on is secure.
Many public wireless networks offered by businesses, while convenient, are not always the most secure. When making a purchase online, make sure the network you are on is using some sort of security measure that requires you to enter a password to connect. The latest and most secure wireless network encryption is WPA2-CCMP. If the network is not secured, it’s best to purchase online from a secured network.
3. Make sure the retailer’s website is secure.
When shopping online, always look in the address bar for https:// at the beginning of a web address. The “s” used in “https” signifies an encrypted connection from your computer to the company’s webserver. This is used to pass sensitive data between the two devices and prevents criminals from snooping the contents of the information sent (credit card number, SSN, etc.).
4. Use strong and unique passwords.
If you’re like the majority of individuals, you probably have 2-3 passwords that you use for all of your online accounts. While these are easy to remember, this isn’t a best practice. If someone discovers your password(s), they now have access to many of your important accounts. We instead recommend using unique and strong passwords for all your online retailer accounts. Strong passwords generally contain a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters (!, #, *, etc.).
5. Watch for phishing emails.
During the holiday season, the amount of phishing emails sent out increases as many criminals seek to falsely represent retailers. If an email looks suspicious or asks for your account information, do not open it or click on any links inside of it. Additionally, the majority of retailers will never include attachments in their emails but phishing emails sometimes do so don’t open any suspicious attachments.
Stay warm and stay safe this holiday season!