The holiday season is in full force. Not only is it time to bring out the tinsel while jamming out to holiday music, it’s also time to buckle down on your holiday shopping. Have you made your holiday shopping list yet? Luckily, in the U.S., the biggest shopping days of the year are coming up meaning lots of shopping deals at stores on and offline to help you complete your holiday shopping list.
There are people out there who are really gung-ho about Black Friday—camping outside a department store the night before and fighting the masses for the half-price widescreen tv. That’s not really my style; I’m more of a Cyber Monday kind of guy. I just fire up my computer or tablet and start clicking and then boxes magically arrive at my house…well maybe not magically.
Online shopping is convenient for the holiday shopper. No lines, no braving the sometimes nasty winter weather, no crowds—you can buy almost anything and never leave your couch. Although online shopping is a great way to complete your holiday shopping list, you should take a couple precautions while online to keep your personal and financial information safe from hackers. Along with avoiding the 12 Scams of the Holidays, here are the top 5 tips to help you stay safe while shopping online this holiday season.
- Be wary of deals. Does that 90% off blowout sale of iPhones sounds too good to be true? It probably is. Any offer you see online that has an unbelievable price shouldn’t be believable. Beware of spam emails with links to awesome deals, as it’s particularly dangerous to buy on a site advertised in a spam email. I recommend using web protection, like McAfee® SiteAdvisor® provides easy to results to protect you from going to a malicious website.
- Use credit cards rather than debit cards. If the site turns out to be fraudulent, your credit card company will usually reimburse you for the purchase; and in the case of credit card fraud, the law should protect you. With debit cards, it can be more difficult to get your money back and you don’t want your account to be drained while you’re sorting things out with your bank. Another option savvy shoppers sometimes use is a one-time use credit card, which includes a randomly generated number that can be used for one transaction only. If the number is stolen it cannot be used again. Using this type of credit card also ensures that a thief does not have access to your real credit card number.
- Review the company’s policies. Look to see how the merchant uses your personal information and check to make sure that it will not be shared with third parties. You should only disclose facts necessary to complete your purchase and not any additional information about yourself. Also, check the website’s shipping policy and make sure it seems reasonable to you. You want to make sure that you understand all your shipping options and how they will affect your total cost of your online purchase.
- Check that the site is secure. Find out if a company’s website is secure by looking for a security seal, like the McAfee SECURE™ trustmark, which indicates that the site will protect you from identity theft, credit card fraud, spam and other malicious threats. Make sure the site uses encryption—or scrambling—when transmitting information over the Internet by looking for a lock symbol on the page and checking to make sure that the web address starts with httpS://.
- Only use secure devices and connections. If you are using a public computer, information such as your browsing history and even your login information may be accessible to strangers who use the computer after you. Also, never shop using an unsecured wireless network because hackers can access your payment information if the network is not protected. To protect yourself, do all of your online shopping from your secure home computer. When shopping at home, make sure all your devices are protected with comprehensive security like McAfee LiveSafe™ service which protects all your PCs, tablets and smartphones.
Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! Disclosures.