Published on November 21, 2019
A Few Tips for Safe Online Shopping
It’s hard to deny the convenience of shopping online. The stores are always open, parking is a breeze, and you can do it from the comfort of your couch while wearing your favorite pajamas.
Online shopping has been gaining in popularity every year — in 2018, sales on Cyber Monday alone were $8 billion, which was up from $6.2 billion in 2017.
While online shopping is certainly convenient, it can also be risky. We’ve all heard the stories. “My credit card numbers were stolen” or “My order never arrived.” And while apps are a convenient way to shop, downloading a fraudulent app is one of the leading causes of identity theft.
If you plan to shop online this holiday season, it’s a good idea to take a few precautions.
Start with a conversation
Talk with your kids (and parents) about the risks associated with clicking on unsolicited and unexpected emails and attachments that promise “great deals” on popular games and toys. These phishing emails will encourage them to “act fast” before the deal goes away or ask for personal information. These emails can be a gateway into your phone or computer — and your passwords and bank account.
Only shop on sites you trust
This one seems basic, but around the holidays people get a little anxious when searching for a specific item. Has this ever happened to you: after hours of searching, you find your item online on a site that you’ve never heard of? Maybe it’s a personal seller or a site for a store you’re unfamiliar with. You’re excited. Your search is over.
Before you celebrate, stop and think.
Why does this store have that “hot” item that everyone else is sold out of? Is this “store” perhaps a scam just to get your credit card information. Here’s a tip:
- Check the website URL (web address) carefully. If you see symbols anywhere in the address that seemingly don’t belong, such as extra periods or misspelled words, it is likely a fake site or a fake payment page that looks like a real one.
It might seem like some extra sleuthing, but it could save you a lot of time and money. Scammers are counting on you being in a hurry or too distracted to notice that something’s not quite right with their site or payment page.
Look for the padlock
When you click on a website, make sure it begins with https://. The “s” at the end stands for “secure.” There should also be a padlock symbol next to the URL. The padlock also tells you that this is a secure site. Avoid the site if a warning pops up on the padlock. The padlock will only tell you that site is secure, not if person running it is honest. So, keep your guard up even if you see a padlock.
Avoid public Wi-Fi
Lifelock.com has some great tips on its site regarding safe online shopping. This one is especially true for those of you who are out shopping, stop at your favorite restaurant for break and then contemplate using their public Wi-Fi to finish up your shopping. Resist this urge. Using public Wi-Fi, even to check your social media or email, is risky at best. Wait till you get home, especially if you need to access your bank account or if you’re entering your credit card number.
Be smart. Be safe. File a complaint.
Finally, trust your instincts. Like the old saying goes, if you see an offer that’s just too good to be true, it probably is. If you suspect that you’ve been scammed, call your financial institution and your credit card company right away and report the site or business. You can log onto the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at https://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx. You can also file a complaint at with the Federal Trade Commission.