It's important to take steps to protect yourself when shopping online. Online shopping is convenient, easy, and quick. But before you start adding items to your cart, make sure you are up-to-date and have the latest security software, web browers and operating system. Keeping a clean machine is the best defense against viruses, malware, and other online threats.
Here are some other ways to protect yourself when shopping online:
- Check out sellers: Conduct independent research before you buy from a seller you have never done business with. Some attackers try to trick you by creating malicious websites that appear legitimate, so you should verify the site before supplying any information. Locate and note phone numbers and physical addresses of vendors in case there is a problem with your transaction or your bill. Search for merchant reviews.
- Make sure the site is legitimate: Before you enter your personal and financial information to make an online transaction, look for signs that the site is secure. This includes a closed padlock on your web browser’s address bar or a URL address that begins with shttp or https. This indicates that the purchase is encrypted or secured. Never use unsecured wireless networks to make an online purchase. Check out this GetNetWise tutorial for more information.
- Use safe payment options: Credit cards are generally the safest option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered. Also, unlike debit cards, credit cards may have a limit on the monetary amount you will be responsible for paying if your information is stolen and used by someone else. Never send cash through the mail or use a money-wiring service because you’ll have no recourse if something goes wrong. Don’t forget to review return policies. You want a no-hassle ability to return items.
- Keep a paper trail: Print and save records of your online transactions, including the product description, price, online receipt, terms of the sale, and copies of any email exchange with the seller. Read your credit card statements as soon as you get them to make sure there aren’t any unauthorized charges. If there is a discrepancy, call your bank and report it immediately.
- Turn your computer off when you’re finished shopping: Many people leave their computers running and connected to the Internet all day and night. This gives scammers 24/7 access to your computer to install malware and commit cyber crimes. To be safe, turn off your computer when it's not in use.
- Be wary of emails requesting information: Attackers may attempt to gather information by sending emails requesting that you confirm purchase or account information. Legitimate businesses will not solicit this type of information through email. Contact the merchant directly if you are alerted to a problem. Use contact information found on your account statement, not in the email.
- Keep a clean machine: Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats.
- Make passwords long and strong: Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password.
- Unique account, unique password: Separate passwords for every account helps thwart cybercriminals.
- When in doubt, throw it out: Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often the way cybercriminals compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark as junk email
- Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots: Limit the type of business you conduct and adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your machine.
- Protect your $$: When banking and shopping, check to be sure the sites is security enabled. Look for web addresses with “https://” or “shttp://”, which means the site takes extra measures to help secure your information. “Http://” is not secure.
- Think before you act:Be wary of communications that implores you to act immediately, offers something that sounds too good to be true, or asks for personal information
- Help the authorities fight cybercrime: Report stolen finances or identities and other cybercrime to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov) and to your local law enforcement or state attorney general as appropriate.