Five Tips for Safe Holiday Shopping Online

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Online-shopping-300x2361. Shop Securely with HTTPS:  

Have you ever noticed that some websites have HTTPS versus HTTP in their URL? Sometimes it’s accompanied by a little padlock icon.  1

The added on “S” stands for Secure. What this means is, the site is, for the most part, safer because all the private information you send to the site, like credit card numbers or your home address, is encrypted. In simple terms, encryption is the process of scrambling sensitive information so that any outside parties other than the vendor themselves can’t access your information.

Best practice is to only make purchases on websites that have HTTPS; however, if you come across one that doesn’t, you could try something like the HTTPS Everywhere add-on for Firefox. Whenever possible, this add-on will switch the websites domain to a secure one, giving you a safer shopping experience.

Below is what it’ll look like once it’s installed. From here, you don’t have to do anything. The add-on will automatically secure URLs whenever it can.


2. Don’t Use Auction Sites – They Can Be Risky:  

During the holidays, it’s always best to avoid sites like EBay, Craigslist or Penny Auction where individuals are selling products. Even third-party retailers through Amazon can be sketchy, so try and stick to Amazon proper or other reputable companies that have a good seller history.

There are two reasons for this. First, you’re trusting an individual with your purchase, regardless of whether or not they use a secure transaction method like Paypal. They’re not a company or an organization and therefore have zero liability if things go wrong with your purchase. And second, scam artists are more likely to set up false accounts during the holidays. Their aim is to target shoppers looking for specific gifts that you can’t find in stores, or shoppers who are looking to get a “cheaper deal” on something that’s being resold.


3. Don’t Allow Sites To Save Your Credit Card and Personal Information:  

Saving your credit card information on retail websites can create a more convenient shopping experience, but is it safe? Not if hackers have a say in it. And that’s what Sony, a very large and reputable company, learned the hard way when their user database was hacked earlier this year. The hack, which exposed the personal information and credit card numbers of nearly 77 million customers, was an eye-opener, not only for Sony, but for all major online retailers and service providers that store user information.

Edit or Delete a Payment Method
On the other hand, the auto-fill feature that exists on most web browsers is something to think about, as well. When entering your information on a particular website for the first time, your browser might ask you if you want to save (or automatically save) said information. If anyone were to get their hands on your laptop, well, I’m sure you can determine the risk. Click here for our guide on disabling the auto-fill feature.

In the end, it might be worth taking that extra 30 seconds to manually enter your information at checkout.


4. Don’t Click on Pop Ups and Avoid Email Scams:  

Smaller online shopping sites tend to have more pop-up ads, especially during the holidays because they know people are shopping. These pop-ups usually scream “good deals”, but in reality the only person getting a good deal is the scam artist or phony company behind it.

Your personal information isn’t the only thing at risk here; there’s a good chance your computer will catch a virus, too. There are plenty of signs to watch out for; probably too many to even list out, so best practice is to NEVER click pop-up ads. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Walmart GreenDIYEnergy

The same warning goes for email scams. These are much easier to fall for because they are directly targeted at you, and they can be disguised VERY well. Scammers tend to double their efforts around the holiday season, so be very careful when digging through your inbox.


5. Watch Out For Facebook Scams:

Email isn’t the only way scam artists target holiday shoppers. Facebook has proven time and time again to be a viable way of reeling in deal hunters. In order to keep your personal information safe and prevent your account from getting hacked into, make sure you use the privacy settings to their full potential. As well, refrain from clicking quizzes or questionnaires that promise coupons or free gifts.

The same holds true for adding applications. Be careful about which applications you add since some of them mimic legitimate applications and will steal your log-in and other personal information after you’ve granted them access.

Finally, you want to be on the lookout for friends on Facebook that have been posting strange status updates and liking posts that look questionable. There’s a good chance they fell for one of the scams mentioned above and they’re not actually posting these updates themselves. Just remember, if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is!

Fb1Example of a malicious application requesting access to all your information.

Fb2Example of a scam that steals your information and spams your friends.

So, parents, these five simple points will help ensure you have a safer holiday shopping experience. There are plenty of other precautions that I haven’t covered here, but this is the bulk of it. Just keep in mind that the holidays are a prime time for identity thieves and scammers to do their dirty work, so be extra careful when clicking around looking for the best deals. And if you have any tips you’d like to add, please share in the comments below. Safe shopping!

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