The Holiday Season is upon us – but just because you’ve got the giving holiday spirit does not mean that hackers are the same. Online holiday shoppers provide a treasure trove of information for hackers and identity thieves to steal. And with the National Retail Federation predicting that 52 percent of holiday gift givers will be making their holiday purchases online this season, it’s more important than ever to practice safe online shopping tips. What’s more, McAfee recently conducted their 2012 Holiday Shopping Study that investigates the online habits and behaviors of Americans who plan to shop online this holiday season – and the results are surprising. In preparation for the spending extravaganza, we wanted to share a few online shopping tips to help keep you secure this holiday season, so that an unwanted credit card theft does not turn you into a holiday Scrooge.
1. Be a wary shopper
Only shop on websites you trust. If you are unsure about the legitimacy of a website, but it’s the only place you can find that “must-have” toy, get more info on sites like BizRate.com or ResellerRatings.com where you can see other people’s experiences with the merchant. It’s important to not only pay attention to the sites, but the specific deals too. If an online deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Scammers often offer extreme deals as a way to entice online buyers to give their personal or financial information that can then be used to steal your identity or money. Along those same lines, be cognizant of the kind of information that the retailer is asking for – a credit card number is fine; a social security number or driver’s license number is not.
2. Check statements
Don’t wait until the end of the month to check your credit or debit card statements – especially during the holiday season. Go online regularly to track account activity on all payment cards, and be sure to report any fraudulent or unknown charges immediately. You have 30 days to notify the bank or credit card issuer of a problem, but after that you can be held responsible for any charges, whether or not you made them.
3. Look for the safety lock
When making a purchase online, double check that the site has employed encryption, and has a URL that begins with “https://”. This indicates that SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption is being used. The site should also be using a valid SSL certificate signed by a reputable authority. If you don’t see the green lock in the left-hand corner of the browser bar, make your purchases from a different site. When it comes to your online safety, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
4. Consolidate your shopping
Make a list of all the gifts you are looking to buy this holiday season. Then try and find a site that has most (if not all) of those gifts available for purchase. Not only will this save you hours of time searching the web and hundreds of dollars on shipping costs, but it ensures that you are limiting the number of places you share your personal information. Inputting your name, address and credit card number on one site is much safer than sharing the information on dozens of sites.
5. Educate your children
If your children are old enough to buy their own holiday gifts, be sure to teach them safe online shopping habits. Since many children and teenagers will still be using their parent’s credit or debit card, it is important to make sure they are equally as informed about staying secure online. Show children how to check a site’s security, and stress the importance of avoiding those “killer deals” shown in pop-up windows. For even more information on teaching your children safe online habits, take a look at these other JustAskGemalto resources:
While you’ll never be free from the risk of online identity theft, you’ll certainly be safer with these tips in hand. Even if you decide to do your holiday shopping the old-fashioned way – at the mall, the National Retail Federation has a wonderful list of tips for any kind of shopping endeavor. Whatever method you use to check off those holiday wish lists this year, we encourage you to stay safe, and always be vigilant of those holiday humbugs.