For today’s consumer, e-commerce has become a convenient alternative to the long lines associated with holiday shopping. Shopping online allows buyers to order goods and have them delivered to their doorstep, all without leaving their home. As a result, shoppers are beginning to prefer “Cyber Monday” over “Black Friday”. Unfortunately, as the preference for online shopping increases, so to do the risks of identity theft and other cyber-attacks. Identifying the risks and vulnerabilities could limit the damages of fraud you could potentially face.
What are the risks?
There are several ways others could access your personal information when shopping online. Today’s most common forms of fraud that result from shopping online include:
- Purchasing from phony/bogus websites that offer goods or services that do not exist. You make a purchase from what you think is a legitimate website, only to have the items you ordered never show up and your credit card information compromised.
- Purchasing goods from websites that are not secure web pages. When a website does not have certain firewall and other security capabilities, it allows hackers and cyber attackers to easily access your personal and bank account information.
- Shopping on an unsecured Wi-Fi connection.
While knowing the risks is important, preventing them is the most important. Here are a couple steps you could take to avoid damage.
- Visit Reliable Websites - Only visit websites that can be trusted (that you are familiar with and you deem to be reputable) and ensure the spelling of the web address is correct. For example, there could be a situation where you want to visit “Amazon.com” but accidentally type in “Amzon.com” which could potentially lead you to a phony website designed to make fraudulent sales.
- Ensure that websites are secure before entering your payment information. You can do so by looking for web addresses that begin with “https://” or show a “padlock” beside the Web address, which symbolizes that it is a secure website. When checking out on the website, look for reliable card protection services. These include Visa’s “Verified by Visa” and MasterCard’s “SecureCode”.
- Credit over Debit - Be cautious when choosing your method of payment. Shoppers need to be aware of the different risks associated with both credit and debit cards and realize there are certain advantages to using a credit card over your debit card when online shopping. When using a credit card you are spending the card provider’s money as compared to using a debit card, in which case you are using your money. If your debit card information falls into the wrong hands, it is your money that is at risk. In most cases, card providers (debit or credit) will work to rectify the situation for those who fall victim to fraudulent purchases, but if you used a debit card for those purchases you may not have access to those funds until the dispute is settled. If your personal preference is to avoid the use of credit cards, limit the amount of money that is in your checking account. Minimizing the balance in your account could lower the risk of exposure to fraud when using a debit card.
Identity thieves and cyber criminals will most definitely be aggressive this holiday season. Employing these steps will help make your online holiday shopping experience safer.