IT Freedom Blog

7 Tips for Shopping Safely Online This Holiday Season

by Jessica Baker on

 

While online shopping makes life easier, it also opens consumers up to a lot of potential cyber crimes. Over the 2017 holiday season global organizations saw a 57% increase in attempted cyber attacks, and that number is continuing to grow. With all the cybersecurity information and statistics out there it's easy to freakout, or feel overwhelmed trying to figure our how to best protect your information online, but we are here to help. 

We've put together a list of our top 7 tips on how to keep your information safe online this holiday season. Put these into use, and you'll be doing more than most to protect yourself.

stay safe online shopping

Check your Credit Card Statements

Online shopping can often mean a workout for your credit card, which also means checking your statement takes a little longer than usual. But just because it's time consuming doesn't mean you should just skim it, or skip it all together. You're responsible for noticing charges you didn't make, not the bank. So check your statements and set up purchase alerts to catch any potentially fraudulent charges. If you see something that shouldn't be there, give your bank/credit card company a call to dispute the charge and receive a new card. 

Don't Auto-Save Credit Card Information

If you're like me and always operate under the assumption that your information will at some point be hacked or compromised this is pretty much a no-brainer. A cyber criminal hacking a major retailer and gaining access to your address is one thing, but them obtaining your credit card information is a whole different issue. Your online security is worth the extra time it takes to get your credit card out and fill in the information manually each time you make a new purchase. 

Think Twice Before Clicking

When we talk about this we want you to be cautious of links and attachments in emails and online advertisements. It's no shock to anyone that advertising mails increase over the holidays - i've gotten three just today about various sales - but in 2018 retailers utilized email A LOT. On Black Friday 3.5 billion emails were sent, and on Cyber Monday that number jumped up to 4.1 billion. That's a lot of emails, and a lot of potential for a phishing email to make it's way in unnoticed. There's no reason to believe this trend is going to slow down, honestly it's probably safe to assume those numbers are only going to continue to increase. This is why it's important to be vigilant when clicking through your emails, to be on high alert for anything offering airline miles or gift cards, especially over the holidays, and make sure you know how to spot and respond to a phishing attempt.

Only Shop with Reputable Retailers

It's easy to get caught up in finding the best deal, even if it's through some random retailer you found on page 5 of the Google search results. But while you’re on the “best price” hunt make sure you’re purchasing from a trusted source. Finding a gift at $5 cheaper isn’t worth the hassle that comes with your information being compromised. Check to see if the retailer you’re looking at has positive reviews, if anyone you know has purchased from them, and if their website is secure. Does their web address include https://? Make sure that “s” is there, as that’s what tells you the website is secure and that everything you’re sending and receiving is secure and encrypted.

Avoid Shopping on Public WiFi

This is really more of a general rule than a holiday specific rule, but it’s important to discuss as mobile spending last year saw a 57% increase and 39% of all internet purchases were made from a mobile device. You may think you’re secure while utilizing the wifi of your favorite coffee shop, but public wifi networks are easily hacked, meaning cyber criminals can intercept any information you give to websites over that connection, including credit card numbers and any account logins.

Use Strong & Unique Passwords

Depending on what is on everyone’s holiday wishlist you may be creating a few new accounts to order gifts. Make sure you’re coming up with unique passwords/pass-phrases for each account. We know this may seem excessive and can be tedious but it’s important for the security of all your accounts. If you’re having trouble remembering each login, see why we recommend using a password manager.

Keep Your Browser, Anti-Virus, & Operating System Updated

We talk about the importance of updates all the time, so I won’t go into too much detail other than to say updates almost always provide patches for known vulnerabilities and help keep your information, network, and device secure. Majority of anti-virus software and operating systems will alert you when it’s time to update, but you may be unsure if your browser is up-to-date or not. Here’s how to check your browser for updates:

Google Chrome

  • Open Chrome
  • At the top right click “More”
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  • Click “Settings”
  • Navigate to “About Chrome” - this is where:
    • You can see if your browser is up-to-date 
    • You can perform updates if necessary
    • You can set chrome to auto-update

Mozilla Firefox

  • Open Firefox
  • Click "Menu" in the upper right corner
  • In "General" scroll to "Firefox Updates", this is where you can:
    • Check which version you're running
    • Check for/install updates
    • Set Firefox to auto-update

Safari

Safari updates are found in the Apple App Store.

  • Open App Store
  • Find “Updates” on the right side toolbar
    • If Safari needs to be updated it will show up here

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer is updated with Window updates. To check for a Windows update:

  1. Click “Start”
  2. Navigate to “Settings”
  3. Click “Updates & Security”
  4. Find “Windows Updates” → “Check for Updates”

Our advice overall: if it has an auto-update option, use it! 

Well that's it for our top tips to keep yourself safe while holiday shopping online! Be on the lookout for our holiday gift guide to be posted soon. 

 

Happy shopping! 

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