8 Tips to Stay Safe Online Shopping this Holiday Season

The holiday shopping season officially begins the day after Thanksgiving, but for many of us, online holiday shopping is already underway. Shopping online is convenient, but it also carries some risks.

At Addition Financial, we often have members ask us about safe online shopping. They want to know what they can do to protect themselves and their financial information. With that in mind, here are eight tips to stay safe online this holiday season.

#1: Shop Only on Secure Websites

When you’re shopping online, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a great deal. However, before you give anybody your credit card information, you should check to make sure the site you’re on is secure.

Google Chrome marks secure sites with a lock icon that appears to the left of the URL. Sites that are not secured with an SSL certificate are marked “Not Secure.” You should never enter your credit card information (or any personal information) on a site that isn’t secure.

#2: Buy from Familiar Sites

Phishing or spoofing websites and links is one of the most common methods cybercriminals use to fool shoppers. Before you click on any link in an email or on a search results page, check to make sure you’re on a site you recognize.

It might be tempting to snap up a low price on a site you don’t recognize but you should weigh the risks before doing so. One common tactic is to replace the familiar .com extension with something else. As long as you remember that the retailers you trust, such as Target and Amazon, have .com extensions, you should be fine.

#3: Update Your Computer’s Security

Viruses and malware are dangerous and the risks of infecting your computer increase when you’re online and buying holiday gifts. If you haven’t already done so, it’s a good idea to install or update virus and anti-malware protection before you begin your holiday shopping.

The best option is to buy a full security suite that includes protection against spoofing, phishing, and malware attacks in addition to virus protection. Once it’s installed, make sure to automate updates, so that your protection is always current.

#4: Use a Secure Wi-Fi Connection

Holiday shopping in the comfort of your own home is likely to be safe provided that you’ve protected your Wi-Fi with a secure password. However, the same cannot be said of using public or shared Wi-Fi.

If you’re shopping outside of your home, our recommendation is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to do your shopping. VPNs allow your device to connect securely with any site you visit, greatly reducing the risk of your information being stolen.

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#5: Don’t Store Your Credit Card Information

One of the keys to safe online shopping is minimizing the ways that your information can be taken. There’s a fine line between convenience and unnecessary risk and it’s important to be mindful of where that line is.

You can protect yourself by not storing your credit card information with the sites you visit. A lot of people use Amazon’s one-click purchasing option. The risk is that if Amazon should suffer a security breach, your information could be taken. Your best bet is to enter your credit card information every time you shop.

#6: Use a Disposable Credit Card

If you use your regular credit card for your online holiday shopping, there’s a risk that someone could steal your credit card information and use it to make unauthorized purchases. If that happens, they’ll have access to your card up to whatever limit your provider has set.

An alternative is to buy a prepaid, disposable credit card such as a Visa gift card or an American Express gift card. While there’s still a risk that your card could be compromised, this option allows you to limit your loss to the amount of the gift card.

#7: Use a Password Manager to Create Secure Passwords

We all know that we’re supposed to create secure passwords that contain upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. However, few of us actually do it because those passwords are difficult to remember.

A solution we like is to use a password manager such as LastPass to generate and store secure passwords. Once it’s downloaded, it will automatically collect and store your passwords. You can use it to log in securely to all your shopping sites and to generate secure passwords regularly.

#8: Use a Mobile Payment App

Finally, you may want to consider using a mobile payment app for online payments. Things like Apple Pay or Google Pay generate a one-time code for online shopping. Each time you buy, it generates a new encrypted code, so you’ll never need to worry about your information being stolen.

While use of mobile apps is not universal, many popular sites now accept mobile payments. We like them because they streamline the payment process while providing additional security.

Online shopping is both convenient and fun, but it’s important to take precautions to protect yourself. These eight tips will help you with safe online shopping this holiday season.

Are you in the market for a new credit card for your holiday shopping? Click here to learn about Addition Financial’s flexible credit card options!