Special Feature

Cyber Security Tips for Holiday Shopping Online

Woman at computer with credit card

Consider this scenario: you’re at home listening to holiday music, drinking a cup of hot chocolate, and wrapping presents when it suddenly hits you: you forgot a gift for someone on your list! Instead of venturing out to an overcrowded shopping center, it’s often easier to stay in the comfort of your own home and complete your holiday shopping online. Throw in expedited shipping, and purchasing gifts online can be quick and convenient. However, online shopping can also pose some risks.

If you’re planning on doing some online shopping, keep the following tips in mind to help keep your personal and financial information secure:

  • Always use secure websites. It’s important to look for “https” at the beginning of a website URL. The extra “s” stands for “secure” and means your personal and financial information is encrypted when it is transmitted to the company. Secure sites also include a lock icon to indicate your data is protected. Never provide credit card or other personal information on websites that are not secure.

  • Skip saving your information. Many websites prompt users to create an account and save credit card information for future purchases. While this may be tempting—especially if you regularly shop on the site—saving your personal or financial information puts you at risk if the company’s data is breached. Re-entering your information with each purchase will help keep your data secure.

  • Shop with companies you know and trust. Cybercriminals often set up fake websites to obtain your credit card and other personal information. Play it safe and stick with websites you know. If you need to shop on an unfamiliar site, check for a physical address and other details, such as the company’s contact information, before purchasing anything. Remember, if an unfamiliar website is offering a deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

  • Use your credit card. Credit cards offer a level of protection from identity theft that debit cards do not. The laws pertaining to fraudulent use of your credit card limit your personal liability to $50, and most major credit card companies won’t charge you for fraudulent use. If a cybercriminal gets ahold of your debit card information, they can quickly clean out your bank account, and recovering your money can be a long and difficult process.

  • Keep your security software current. Keep your security software updated on your computer. Anti-virus software will help detect and remove viruses that can steal your personal information. If you’re shopping using a mobile device, make sure it is updated with the latest operating system.

  • Shop on a secure wireless network. While public Wi-Fi may be convenient, it’s not the most secure. Public Wi-Fi networks are at greater risk of being hacked than secure Wi-Fi networks, such as one you may have at home. Never provide personal or financial information on a public network.