Online shopping is one of the fastest growing forms of retail in the world. A Pew Research Center study showed that eight in ten Americans are online shoppers. Shopping at home is obviously super-convenient, and usually a great way to save. My wife and I use it to order gifts for our out-of-town nieces and nephews for birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. We have them shipped directly to their parents’ home, saving us the hassle of buying, packing and shipping them ourselves. Not to mention all the great deals we find!
But all the time and money you may save shopping online can be wiped out in a single click. As the prevalence of online retail grows, so do the scams and risks.
When shopping online, here are a few simple tips we teach at the Center for Cyber Safety and Education that will help you be safe and secure and make sure it doesn’t end up costing you more than you bargained for.
- NEVER click on an advertisement for a product that you received in an email or see on social media…even if you really think it is coming from a trusted source. Instead, simply go to your browser, type in the store’s address and search for the special there.
- Make sure you're on the site you want to be on. If you google a store or product, use extreme caution when you see the results. Either type in the address as suggested above, or double-check once you click on the link that you really went to the site where you planned to shop. Even check the spelling of the site’s name before clicking any deeper or entering any personal information.
- Only use a credit card - NOT a debit card - when shopping online. If someone gets access to your account, you have more fraud protection with a credit card. If you use a debit card, the bad guys can get your cash before you even realize you have been hit.
- Make sure you're shopping on a secure site. Check the web address at the top navigation and make sure you see the letters “https://” (not just http). The “S” is important. It means the site is secure and your information is encrypted.
- Stick with trusted sites that you know. Don’t fall for some random site that says they have that hot item you want at half the price of other stores. Trust me…they don’t.
- Don’t store your credit card information on a store’s site. Yes, it does take a little more time to type in your credit card number every time you buy, but why have your personal information floating around on the internet? You’re just making things easier on criminals.
We have even more tips on our website at Safe and Secure Online. You have too much at risk to not take your time when shopping online. Slowing down will help you protect your credit, cash and your identity. Don’t let a virus, or worse yet - your identity being stolen – ruin the fun of shopping for yourself or others online. If you don’t take a little extra time to be safe and secure online, it will cost you a lot more money and time in the long run.
About the author: Patrick Craven is a father of two and the director for the Center for Cyber Safety and Education (Center), a non-profit charitable trust committed to making the cyber world a safer place for everyone. The Center works to ensure that people across the globe have a positive and safe experience online through their educational programs, scholarships, and research. Visit www.iamcybersafe.org. If you have questions or topic ideas, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org