There is nothing like having a purse full of money, or a credit card with a very high limit (or even unlimited!) and use them to go shopping, especially with the holiday season already upon us. We are already in December, so Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are just around the corner.
We are, however, in the digital and Internet era, so most purchases in this time of the year are made online, and there is data to support that fact. But before you perform any purchases, be sure to follow these security measures:
#1 Keep your devices clean
For online shopping, it is convenient to make sure that our gadgets and equipment, such as personal computers, laptops, smartphones or tablets, are malware-free. It is preferable to run current versions of each service, application, firmware or software.
Another way to achieve a clean state of health for your hardware and software, you will need to get antivirus software or update the one you have up to the latest version. You do this with the intention of being sure that you have the right security measures to fight the newest types of viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, and other malware.
Remember that your PC or mobile device can get infected at any time, especially when you are interacting with unknown shopping platforms that can allow viruses and malware that gather information about your payment methods.
#2 Secure your online accounts
If you have weak passwords, like the sadly famous “1234,” you will suffer the enhanced risk of some hacker or web pirate taking over your online shopping accounts and using your credit card information to buy in your behalf.
To combat this, we recommend setting up complicated passwords with several numbers, letters, and unique keys to make it more difficult for web meddlers to successfully enter your accounts and destroy your financial wellbeing. You can incorporate biometrics, personalized keys, a unique code, and other means also.
#3 Do your research
Before shopping online for that perfect gift for your loved ones, be sure to check every known site and the customer’s reviews. If you are going to buy things from a recommended page that you don’t know, double and triple check the reviews section.
Be aware of dangerous experiences that some customers may have had in the past in a specific buying platform: time of delivery, quality of the product, customer service, payment issues, scams, and virtually everything you can use to give yourself confidence while shopping. If you aren’t confident enough, just look at another site.
Be sure to shop on legitimate websites, and that the contact information about the platform and the seller are accurate. Check the domain name of the page, the time that the seller or site takes to answer questions, and everything you need to assess.
#4 Avoid opening suspicious links
Dangerous viruses often infect computers and devices because they clicked on pop-ups or downloaded email attachments that they didn’t know. These malware files usually come hidden behind attractive deals that may seem irresistible.
This method, in particular, is becoming very popular in Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and many countries of Eastern Europe to infect people with a threat named Ransomware, which hijacks the infected people’s files until they pay a ransom.
#5 Protect your money: fill out only required fields
When registering your personal information and payment methods in some online shopping platforms, they ask you to provide critical data about yourself. Now, some of the fields are mandatory, and others are optional.
If you find yourself in that situation, and you have concluded that you trust the page, only provide the required information. You don’t need to give away any data that may be intercepted later down the road and used against yourself.
#6 Secure your hardware
Not only you need to secure your online shopping and banking accounts when you are about to shop online for this holiday’s gifts for your family, but you need to ensure that no one has access to your personal computer or device.
You can use the touch ID to make sure nobody but you have access to the features of your phone. Robust passwords also work. The thing you need to take into account is that you need to protect your equipment in case of robbery or misplace.
#7 Disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when you are not using them
If you don’t want to follow you or spy on you, then you need to turn off your Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features, because when you least expect it, retail stores will use your location to send you offers nearby annoying advertising and other stuff.
Their primary intention is apparent: to get you to make a purchase. In most cases, they won’t mind going out of their way to make sure their brand is among your thoughts. However, this may make you uncomfortable, so you just need to deactivate those services if you are not enjoying them at the moment.
#8 Stick with trustworthy brands
This one seems obvious, but people fall victims of thefts and scams more often than you would think. They chase “incredible” offers on some unknown site they found on the web instead of paying more for safety.
Well-known brands are more likely to take care of all your needs and requirements because they tend to have better customer services and attention to details. They don’t want to risk having a bad reputation, so they are usually very accountable.
Besides, you know you will get quality out of your gifts for the holiday because the brand has a reputation, and you may be familiar with it.
#9Use credit cards over debit cards
If you want to shop safely online, credit cards are better tools than debit cards. The reason is that they offer customer more protection measures than their counterpart. And get this: your credit card is not linked to any funds, but your debit card is. In the event of data leakage or robbery, this may come back to haunt you.
Debit cards may have no limit on transactions with stolen assets, but credit cards often have a top amount that the hypothetical thieves will not be able to surpass. We strongly recommend PayPal if you want to shop safely online.
#10 Use sites with HTTPS
The Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) allows you to navigate through the web and enjoy its many benefits. However, the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) lets you have a safe online experience.
The HTTPS encrypts your traffic so no one can see it, thus securing your passwords, credit card numbers, and other valuable assets. Make sure your favorite online store has the HTTPS word and the padlock sign next to the address bar.
#11 Beware of “too good to be true” offers and deals
We have talked about proceeding with caution in some sites. But sometimes you may come across unbelievable offers on other platforms that may not necessarily be shopping pages. Whatever site you are visiting, do your research before hitting the ad you came across, or before you hit the “BUY” button.
Remember that clicking on these ads may bring you unwanted outcomes: ransomware, malware, viruses, Trojans, information leaks, and much more, like scams. When the holidays approach, be especially wary of these people trying to trick you.
#12 Avoid using public Wi-Fi
While having an open Wi-Fi connection available for customers is almost a necessity for the managers and owners of today’s stores, cafés, libraries, airports, and other similar places, you need to be especially careful on these networks, especially for online shopping.
For starters, hackers can easily intercept your traffic and steal passwords and credit card information from you. Also, they can inject malware into your system if they manage to enter the network, which is very straightforward since it is free.
It is preferable to use your data plan than connecting to a public network and engage into “secure” online shopping because it would not be safe at all.
#13 Install a VPN app for secure browsing
VPNs are online encryption measures and technologies that allow you to hide your actual IP address, letting you use a borrowed one for the time of your online session. They will enhance your privacy and security online because few agents will be able to track you.
With a reliable VPN provider like TorGuard, you can safely purchase all kinds of items online without having to worry about anyone intercepting your traffic and crucial personal information.
#14 Keep track of your banking transactions
When you connect to WiFi, it doesn’t matter if it is public or private, you need to be regularly checking your banking account, balances and transactions, because many of the cybercriminals lurking around do their magic when you expect it the least.
In conclusion, if you want to learn how to shop online safely, you need to take a series of security measures and drills to make sure that no criminals or thieves can have access to your digital wallet and banking accounts. That would be very detrimental to your online shopping and your overall financial state.