It’s become almost second nature to shop online—especially during the busy holiday season. But, if it’s been a while since you’ve brushed up on safe online shopping habits, this is a perfect opportunity. After all, a little extra precaution can go a long way toward preventing a big issue like identity theft. And it’ll help keep you shopping confidently year round. Follow these 7 essential tips to keep yourself, and your personal data, protected:
- Before you buy anything online, be sure you’re sending your personal data to a site you can trust. When in doubt, searching for reviews can help tell if a site has a bad reputation. Avoid ordering items by clicking on links — if there’s something you want from a store, it’s safer to type in the URL so you know exactly where you’re going. And those too-tempting-to-pass-up offer emails or social media posts? Avoid them and just go to the retailer’s website directly. Hackers have been known to use fraudulent emails or posts to send you to dummy websites that look just like real ones, giving them easy access to your credit card.
- Avoid public Wi-Fi hotspots and only shop online from home or a secure network. Any information you enter on an unsecured network could be snatched by a talented hacker.
- Look for https:// at the beginning of the web address before entering any personal information, especially your banking or credit card information. This tells you the website has extra layers of encryption to transfer your information securely.
- If possible, use a credit card for purchases. Many offer fraud protection, which can make it easier to recover your losses if your credit card number ever falls into the wrong hands.
- Only fill out the required information at checkout. You shouldn’t need to enter your birthday or, worse yet, Social Security number. These pieces of information make it easy for identity thieves to pose as you.
- Create a different password for every online shopping site you use. Many major companies, like Home Depot, Target, LivingSocial, and eBay, have reported data breaches in recent years. If you use the same password everywhere, a single breach could give hackers the keys to make fraudulent purchases in all the places you shop.
- Check out the return and refund policies before making a purchase. You may have to pay for return shipping or have a restocking fee deducted from your refund. Between the two, you might not get any money back if you return an item.