8 Easy Tips to Shop Safe Online this Holiday Season

           Tis the season for lots of merriment, and lots of shopping.  Latest numbers by the “experts” guess that American’s will spend $200 billion (yes, with a “b”) this year.  Over $149 billion of that will be online.  Sounds like a lot, right?  The crooks think so, too.  Remember, there are lots of Grinches out there trying to steal our holiday joy.  The Christmas season is also the prime season for identity theft and hackers to get access to your finances.  Just like we learned to lock our car doors, hide purchases in the trunk and protect our wallets, there’s precautions you should take before hopping on the internet to find that perfect gift.

  1.  Don’t use free Wi-Fi to do your shopping.  EVER.  Although sipping a peppermint mocha while checking off that perfect gift sounds dreamy, k You could be risking your sensitive information to  unintended recipients without even know it. It is very easy to fake a free wifi network and capture every item you send or receive, and you probably would never even realize it.  Think of it this way…would you leave a $100 bill on the table while you go to the bathroom?  Using free Wi-Fi to make purchases makes as much sense. 
  2. Set up a PayPal, Venmo, Apple or Google pay account.  That way, your credit card information is secure in one “vault”, instead of spreading it out over several sites.  Plus there’s the perk of not having to enter your billing address and shipping address every time, which I love. 
  3. Don’t save your credit card information on retail websites.  EVER.  Yeah, they say they’re secure and that it’s safe, but  the issue isn’t necessarily that they are not secure… but if your web browser is compromised or someone gets access to it, all of your information is offered up with no extra hassle.
  4. If you find something you want from a site that only takes credit cards, run to Walgreens or Target or heck, anywhere, and buy a Visa gift card to use.  They are available everywhere and then if you do get hacked, there’s a limited amount they can get and you don’t have to shut down all your accounts. 
  5. Use a password manager.  Every retail website wants you to set up a user name and password, and it IS nice to be able to go back a track your order anytime, but don’t fall into the convenient trap of using the same password on every site (I was guilty of that for years).  A password manager like One Password assigns secure, individual, crazy complex passwords for every site you use, including your bank account.
  6. No retail shop will ask for your social security number.  EVER.  Do not ever, ever, EVER give it out.  No matter how great that gift looks or how lovely Aunt Betty will look in it, click away from that site.  Fast.
  7. All banks offer online accounts now.  Set it up where you get a text every time something comes out of your account.  That way, if the worst does happen, you know instantly and can contact your bank.  If you were walking in the mall and someone stole your wallet, you wouldn’t want to wait till the end of the month to know about it.  Be aware of what’s going on.
  8. Pay attention to the URL of the site you’re shopping at.  Make sure it’s where you meant to be, and make sure you see the little lock to the left of the web address.  This shows you that the site is secure.  You can also click on the address and make sure it starts with “https”, the “s” at the end tells you its secure.  “Http” is non-secure and a no thank you ma’am when entering personal information.

The perks of online shopping are numerous…you have the entire world at your fingertips…sizes, colors, options not to mention not having to stampede or get your toes stepped on.  With just a few precautions you can wrap up your holiday shopping without having to leave your Christmas tree or your jammie’s.

Wishing you a very Happy Holiday Season…and Happy Shopping!  🙂