When you think about it, online shopping is a marvel. You whip out your phone, tap a few buttons, and then a few days later (or the same day) your purchase shows up on your doorstep. It’s great, but it can sometimes be precarious. Safe online shopping means you need to take some common-sense steps to keep your information and money safe. This doesn’t mean sacrificing the convenience or fun. Keep reading for some safe online shopping tips to keep your family safe.
How to Shop Safe Online
1. Setup Text and Email Alerts
No one wants more texts and emails from businesses, but there’s a benefit here. One of the best ways to fight bad guys on the internet is to catch them quickly. For your bank and credit/debit cards, sign up to receive alerts for charges. Some apps offer a push notification as well. If you catch a fraudulent or unauthorized charge, this gives you a chance to contact the card issuer and stop it right away. The faster you identify and report a problem, the better your chances at getting it reversed.
2. Consider Digital Wallets like Apple Pay or Google Pay
Digital wallets like Apple Pay or Google Pay have a key differentiator compared to directly giving your payment information to a website. Both services do not provide your card number to a merchant. Instead, they act as an intermediary to make your purchase. The difference here is if the merchant is compromised then the bad guys do not get your actual card number. All they get is a separate number the digital wallet generated for your original transaction while you actual card information remains secure.
3. Watch Your Statement and Online Logins
You should always keep an eye on your accounts, but if you’re doing more shopping than usual make extra effort to check a little closer.
4. Use Two Factor Authentication
You should have Two-Factor Authentication on every financial account. You should also have this security feature on shopping accounts. That little code you receive on your phone might seem like a pain, but it goes a long way toward reducing fraud.
5. Look for the Lock Icon (HTTPS)
When you go to a website, look up at the address bar. You want to see either “https” or a lock symbol at in the address bar. If you don’t see this, absolutely do not enter any personal or financial information. This simple difference means a website has additional security to make it more difficult for the bad guys to steal your information.
6. Beware Third Party Sellers
Many sites, like Amazon, offer their own products and also allow third parties to sell on their site. Sometimes, a single product can be offered by multiple sellers. Although many third party products/sellers are legitimate, some aren’t. Don’t expect the website to make a distinction between wheat and chaff for you. Be careful to check if you’re buying from a third party. If you choose to buy from one of these sellers, carefully look for reviews on how legitimate they are and any problems.
7. Check if this is a Legitimate Merchant
If you make an effort to support small businesses with your online shopping, then good for you. You still need to be safe. If you’re considering a purchase from an unfamiliar site, do some checking around. Search the company name and see if there’s any complaints. You can also check the Better Business Bureau or state Secretary of State for any past problems.
8. Use Unique and Strong Passwords
Do not use the same password for multiple sites. Also, use strong passwords. A great way to automate this is by using a password service like LastPass or 1Password. Services like this generate a unique password for each site and securely store the password for you.
9. Avoid Public Wi-Fi Shopping
It might seem convenient to shop while sipping a Latte at the coffee shop, but don’t. You should never enter login information or payment information while on public networks. Wi-Fi at the coffee shop is built for convenience, not your security.
10. Beware of Unnecessary Questions
If you go to make a purchase and a website starts asking odd questions, go no further. This can be a sign of a scam.
11. Watch for Copycat Websites
Scammers will sometimes make a copy of a website. The copies often use a web address very close to the real one and duplicate the color scheme of the real deal. Look carefully to make sure you are buying from Target and not Tarjet.
12. Be Skeptical When a Deal Seems Really Great
If it seems to good to be true, It probably is. Don’t let the temptation to get a deal conflict with your common sense.
13. Watch your inbox carefully
If you’re doing more online shopping than usual, be extra careful with your inbox. Scams like phishing are targeted at folks who might have made a purchase recently. A common one is a frantically worded email saying there’s a shipping problem. Be very careful with emails that ask for quick action for implore you to click a link.
14. Beware of Shopping Apps that Make Big Claims
There's a multitude of apps that claim to save you money or give you access to deals you supposedly can't find elsewhere. Be skeptical about these claims. Read app reviews and search around before downloading an app.
A Word About Young Shoppers
You should be careful when shopping on the web. As you shop though, don't keep all these safety tactics to yourself. Take a moment to share how to be safe with online shopping with your children as they grow. You would do the same to help them be safe at a mall, right? Help them learn how to be safe so they can enjoy shopping the right way, when they're old enough.
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