Online shopping is a wonderful tool for many who really just aren’t that into shopping. During the holidays it becomes a way to save oneself from the crazy crowds, long lines and sold out merchandise that occurs at stores across the nation this time of year. Though it is a much easier route to choose, it can also leave you open to cyber security vulnerability. Cybercrime is on the rise and hackers know that holiday shoppers can get careless and become easy targets for malicious activity. Protect yourself, your information and your bank accounts with these tips.
Make Sure You Are Using a Secure Connection
Browsing for gifts on your phone while you sit at a coffee shop waiting for your double half-caf chocolate hazelnut latte is a great way to kill time. But, when you see that amazing deal that you have to take advantage of right now, don’t act on it right away. If you are connected to their public Wi-Fi, you leave yourself open to anyone else with access to the account to grab your personal information right from your transaction as you enter it. Your name, address, phone, email, and credit card information will be putty in their hands. Be conscious of where you are and to which network you are connected when it comes to cybersecurity protection. If you find yourself absolutely needing to purchase something online or make a payment while out and about, use your mobile data network or a Virtual Private Network (VPN). There are several reputable VPN companies to choose from, and most offer a plan that will allow you to protect both a PC and a phone or tablet. A couple of easy ones are SurfEasy or TunnelBear.
Keep Up with Updates to Your Phone and Apps
Cyber security patches and more are important changes that apps, computer, and mobile phone providers make on a regular basis. Missing one of these updates can leave you vulnerable to cyber attacks that can lock you out of your device, steal your personal information and/or take payment information and/or gain access to your bank and credit cards online. When you see the update request pop up on your phone or computer screen do it as soon as possible! Even if you can’t drop what you’re doing to let your software update in the moment, set a reminder for later the evening and get it done while you sleep. As annoying as they can be, these notifications are not to be ignored.
Only Make Purchases from Reputable Sites
Pay attention to online reviews for different companies that seem unfamiliar or are independent sellers. If you are looking for an original or handmade gift, try either shopping locally with businesses you are familiar or make sure to shop on sites with a good reputation for these kinds of sellers like Etsy, Amazon, and eBay. Shopping on suspicious-looking sites can also put you at risk for cyber security fraud.
Update Passwords to Protect Your Cyber Security
If you’re anticipating doing a lot of online shopping, make sure you update your passwords with super secure options. Refrain from the ever popular nightmare of a password – ‘password’ or anything that you think will outsmart anyone with the used of the word password in it. Avoid birthdates, pet names and the like as well. These are details that hackers can easily track down through records of online activity, included social media. Try using a unique password generator and then storing your passwords with a secure password storage system like LastPass. Then, you don’t have to remember or write down the complicated (yet secure) passwords and you can feel confident you are doing your part to keep your information safe.
Avoid Spammy Emails
You know who you have given your email to and who you haven’t. If you have to question it or don’t remember the name of a company OR if the logo looks weird, something seems a little off about the from address, etc., don’t click. No deal is worth letting a hacker into your life. Only open emails from retailers you regularly shop with and from whom you can identify unusual appearances so you are able to avoid scams. Go directly to the website in your browser instead of clicking a link and use coupon codes from there. Email scammers are getting more savvy when it comes to exploiting cyber security, and can create believable designs to mimic the company.
Shopping online always comes with some risk, but following these tips will make you a less likely target. Cyber criminals tend to go after low-hanging fruit, so if you make it even a little harder for them than normal they will look elsewhere. Share these tips with your friends and family to remind them to avoid falling pretty to cyber crime this or any time of year.
If you have any additional questions about this information, please contact me.