More than half of my Christmas shopping this year was done from the comfort of my own home. As we are still amid a pandemic, online shopping has made holiday shopping easy and safe. In fact, it has become such a common practice that 54% of modern Americans claim that they prefer to shop online. While the option to shop online is convenient, most people are unaware of the dangers it poses to their financial security. It is important to be informed of the potential risks you may encounter when making online purchases.
Identity Theft. One of the most common risks of shopping online is identity theft. One of the ways this is accomplished is through phishing. These types of messages can look like routine emails from your bank or something similar, and they will ask that you input your account information to “fix a problem.” Similarly, fake prize-winner messages entice you with money or prizes and have you enter personal details in order to access them.
Credit Card Fraud. Another huge online risk, specifically when shopping, is credit card fraud. Cybercriminals will intercept your online shopping right as you are set to pay. They will redirect you to a website that is almost an exact replica of the company’s site. The hope is that you’ll enter your payment information without noticing the switch, which will then be stolen and used to fund personal purchases.
Adware and Malware. Some pop-up advertisements can be appealing, but they may be trying to scam you. These ads will have you enter your personal information which can give criminals easy access to your accounts. Be wary what you click on!
Protecting Yourself While Online Shopping
It would be unrealistic to ask everyone to stop online shopping altogether. It’s convenient, and at times there may be extenuating circumstances that require it. However, while you enjoy the ease of digital transactions, take precautions to ensure you do not fall victim to any of the traps mentioned above. Carnegie Mellon has published an article that offers a few different practices you can implement to stay safe from those online threats.
Protect Personal Data. You should never be sending sensitive, pertinent over email. Similarly, online shopping will never require you to input your Social Security number. One thing you can look for is that the website begins with “https” which usually signifies that it is a secure site.
Buy From Trusted Vendors. While doing online shopping, you should make sure you are buying from trusted vendors. Buying directly from social media sites or online boutiques can put you in compromising situations. If possible, stick with trusted online retailers that you’ve already purchased from.
Shop With a Credit Card. Doing most of your online shopping with a credit card is good practice. If your credit card were to become compromised, your personal funds would not be directly affected. Instead, you could report the charge as fraud, and you’d be refunded. However, if someone were to get access to your debit card information, your bank account and balance would be irreparably impacted.
Set Up Account Alerts. Both your credit and debit accounts have the option to set up alerts that notify you when there is a large purchase made with your card. Having these alerts activated and frequently checking your account will guarantee that you catch any fraudulent activity.
Make this holiday season the best one yet by protecting yourself and your assets!
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