Cyber Safe Online Holiday Shopping Guide

Nov 24, 2021

It’s that time of year again. The gift lists are streaming in, and the deals are stacking up, but if you’re anything like me, the idea of physically going into stores just seems overwhelming and unkind. So, get cozy in your buffalo plaid fleece jammies, grab yourself a warm beverage, and head on over to that first e-commerce site on your list!

But first... Read our quick guide of simple ways to protect yourself online while taking advantage of those black Friday deals. 

Cyber Shopping Protection Tips


Think Before You Click

Although a good deal is hard to refuse, don’t be too quick to click on a text or email link. Remember, during the holiday season, stores will often post their deals and coupon codes right on their website, so head on over to them and verify that the deal isn’t too good to be true.


Be Careful When Using Public Wi-Fi

If you’re traveling during the holidays and trying to do your holiday shopping online, be sure to connect to a secure network, VPN, or your mobile device hotspot rather than public Wi-Fi, if possible. If you need to input sensitive data (such as your credit card information) over a public connection, you may want to consider using a mobile security platform. Lookout is a good example and is often free (or a low cost) from your phone carrier and it has the ability to block phishing and malware websites.


Do Your Research

If you’re thinking about shopping with an unfamiliar e-commerce site, consider doing the following:

Read the reviews to see what consumers are saying. If the reviews are all negative, avoid shopping with the merchant altogether.
Look on the website for the physical address of the business to ensure that it really exists.
When in doubt, call the merchant by using the provided phone number to verify its legitimacy.


Check For Encryption


It’s important to verify site encryption before getting to the “checkout”. Encryption is what helps keep your sensitive data secure.

Look for URLs that begin with “https:” rather than “http:”
Look for the closed padlock in the address field of your browser.


Consider Your Payment Options


If possible, consider using a credit card instead of debit card. If something goes awry, you’ll have a greater level of protection. Consider the following when initiating an online transaction:

Fraudulent charges against your bank account could result in loss of your funds and an inability to cover your expenses.
Credit card companies typically allow for easy dispute of fraudulent charges.
Credit card companies can quickly address the situation by providing you with a new card (and number) in a matter of days.
Using a third-party payment app, such as PayPal or Google Pay, allows you to make a purchase without having to provide the merchant with your credit card information directly.


Limit Your Information Sharing


If the merchant is requesting more data than what you are comfortable sharing, cancel the transaction.
Only fill out the fields that are required for the purchase.
Do not save your payment information to your account. If the information auto-saves, go back into your account and delete it. This is important because if your account is compromised, not having saved payment information on file can minimize the damage.
Review your opt-in and opt-out options for future communications from the merchant.


Keep An Eye on Your Accounts


Review your bank and credit card accounts and statements to ensure unauthorized activity isn’t occurring.
Consider setting up alerts on your debit and credit cards so that you’ll receive notice for purchases exceeding your specified thresholds.


IoT Gifts


We all have tech geeks on our list and they all want the lastest and greatest IoT (Internet of Things) devices. IoT devices can connect to the internet and may have the ability to collect, use, and share your data. Some examples of IoT devices are Philips Hue Bridge, Xbox One, AppleTV, Denon HEOS speakers, Aerogarden, Logitech Harmony Hub, MyQ Garage Door Opener, Nest thermostat, Samsung Washer and Dryer, and Video doorbells. When gifting these devices, be sure to review this tip sheet to help keep your loved ones secure.

Stay safe and happy holidays!

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