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Online Shopping Security Awareness

The National Cyber Security Alliance recommends following these basic steps so you'll be ready to cybershop safely and securely this holiday season and all year long too.  However, Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals this year are projected to increase online sales by 17 - 22 percent (according to Deloitte Insights), which will generate an increase in cyber attacks and theft.

Here are some tips for safe online shopping: 

  • Lock down your login. One of the most critical things you can do in preparation for the online shopping season is to fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like e-mail, banking, and social media.
  • Keep clean machines. Before searching for that perfect gift, be sure that all web-connected devices—including PCs, mobile phones, smartphones, and tablets—are free from malware and infections by running only the most current versions of software and apps.
  • Shop reliable websites online. Use the sites of retailers you trust. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! 
  • Conduct research. When using a new website for your holiday purchases, read reviews and see if other customers have had a positive or negative experience with the site.  Check with the Better Business Bureau if you are unsure of a business and review their profile.
  • Personal information is like money: value it and protect it. When making a purchase online, be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete the transaction. Make sure you think it is necessary for the vendor to request that information. Remember that you only need to fill out required fields at checkout.
  • Use a credit card.  There are laws to limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, but you may not have the same level of protection for your debit cards. Additionally, because a debit card draws money directly from your bank account, unauthorized charges could leave you with insufficient funds to pay other bills. You can minimize potential damage by using a single, low-limit credit card to making all of your online purchases. Also use a credit card when using a payment gateway such as PayPal, Google Wallet, or Apple Pay.
  • Be wary of emails requesting information.  Attackers may attempt to gather information by sending emails requesting that you confirm purchase or account information. Legitimate businesses will not solicit this type of information through email. Do not provide sensitive information through email. If you receive an unsolicited email from a business, instead of clicking on the provided link, directly log on to the authentic website by typing the address yourself.
  • Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots. If you are out and about, limit the type of business you conduct over open public Wi-Fi connections, including logging in to key accounts, such as e-mail and banking. Adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your phone. If you must use open Wi-Fi connections, connect to a virtual private network (VPN) first.
  • Check the address bar. Look for a padlock icon and https:// in the web address bar before entering your credit card or pay account online. If the padlock is closed, the information is encrypted. 
  • Check your statements.  Keep a record of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages, and compare them to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.
  • Protect package delivery.  Now that you've shopped online have a plan for package delivery.  Package theft is on the rise and thieves will be looking for packages left unattended at doorsteps to steal.  Have a neighbor collect your package or leave instructions for the delivery driver to leave items in a concealed location away from public view. 

Here is a handy infographic with tips to be a Cybersmart Holiday Shopper.