2015 is destined to be the year of the online shopper: not only are major retailers expanding their online offerings to compete with Amazon, but the New York Times has also claimed the death of the shopping mall. Even the Girl Scouts are offering an app to find their coveted cookies, making it easier than ever to complete much of your shopping online. But with numerous reports citing major data breaches last year it’s important to protect your personal and financial information from getting into the wrong hands. We’re here to help with some simple steps you can take to maximize your security and enjoy your online shopping worry-free.
- Save your online shopping for home.
While it may be tempting to get some shopping done on your smartphone or laptop while out and about, using public wi-fi connections increases a hacker’s ability to connect to your device and steal your information. Simply bookmark the item and buy it from home.
- Only shop on HTTP Secure (https) sites.
Though not entirely hack-proof, https sites increase your online security by verifying that only you and the retailer have access to the site, not anyone else trying to view your personal information. How do you know if the site’s secure? Check out the address bar at the top—if you don’t see the “S” after http, think twice before using the website. Some browsers like Google Chrome even highlight that information in green.
- Opt out when it comes to storing information online.
While it may seem like a quick shortcut for future purchases, don’t let websites store your credit card information. As we know from the 2013 Target breach, no company is immune from being hacked, so it’s better to be safe than sorry and decline storing your payment information online.
- Be password-savvy.
We’ve moved beyond the days where you can simply use your mother’s maiden name as a secure password. Now, it’s safest to use a random combination of letters, numbers and symbols, so create a mnemonic device and update your passwords. You’ll also want to choose a different password for different accounts, so that if one is compromised, not all of your accounts can be accessed with the same password. While you’re at it, also make sure to password-protect your smartphone in case it gets lost or stolen.
- Check your bank account daily.
Whether you’re shopping online or in the stores, it’s always good to check your bank and credit card accounts on a regular basis. This will alert you to any suspicious activity, allowing you to quickly freeze your accounts before any major damage takes place. Debit cards generally require that you report fraudulent charges within two business days to limit your liability, so it’s smart to keep as updated as possible. See if your bank will let you set up automatic alerts or reports for certain types of transactions.
If you need something only found at a specific retail location, or even at a pop-up store or farmer’s market, consider taking out cash at the ATM before purchasing anything. This is also a good idea if you are shopping in a new area, or at places using potentially unsecured mobile devices to process your payment. The easiest way to prevent this and protect your personal finances is to use cash whenever possible.
What new online shopping habits will you start in 2015? Let us know in the comments section.