How to Protect Your Money When Shopping Online
A report from Forrester predicts that online holiday shopping will increase to $151 billion this year. This marks an increase of 14% over 2017 numbers. About 20% of all US holiday shopping will occur online. As the holiday shopping season wears on, so do the number and breadth of cyber security issues. Hackers are aware that their odds of fooling hurried, tired shoppers are much better at this time of year. Shoppers are accustomed to their inboxes being swamped with offers and grow numb to the onslaught of promotional emails. They become less cautious about which ones they open and what links they select, hoping to save money. Many are not careful about which email they read or what websites they shop from. With a few smart internet tips, shoppers can reduce the likelihood that they fall victim to a hacker or phishing scam.
The Holiday shopping season kicked off with Black Friday deals. Already we saw that ecommerce giant Amazon reported a mysterious tech glitch where the names and emails of some Amazon Prime customers were exposed to an unnamed third-party. No more information about the issue has been disclosed by Amazon so it is hard to estimate the effect of the damage.
The United States Postal Service is attempting to make snail mail safe and secure, by sending advance delivery notifications. Instead, they may have made it easier for hackers to scam more credit cards and bank account numbers from mail recipients. The USPS Informed Delivery service has been the focus of scrutiny as hackers have found a few ways to divert the notifications or scam the data of subscribers.
Five Tips to Make Your Holiday Shopping Secure
- Be sure your devices are patched and kept up to date
- Change Passwords
- Delete Suspicious or Unwanted Emails
- Add Notifications to All of Your Financial Accounts
- Subscribe and Learn About Cyber Security
You will most likely be using multiple devices – phone, tablet, home laptop, or work computer – to shop online. The easiest thing you can do to help secure your devices is to keep them up-to-date by taking the latest security and system patches. This goes for all operating systems, web browsers, and apps. Updates and patches are almost always free of charge. If you have a hard time remembering check for updates, then set your devices to accept all updates and allow them to start automatically. Set devices to auto-update at night so you won’t be inconvenienced. Many malware attacks, like WannaCry, spread globally because machines were not patched with the latest software.
Although it may be a challenge to rotate your passwords frequently, try to make it a habit. Change your passwords at least every six months, more often if you can. If you travel or use open WiFi then you should be especially diligent with login information. Hackers can sniff your username and passwords from public WIFI locations such as coffee shops and airports. Major retail stores all seem to offer free WiFi, so you will spend more time in their store. This can be used to track your location through apps on behalf of advertisers. Hackers use it to steal your logins. Switch to your data carrier or change your password for sensitive information and change passwords as soon as you return to an encrypted WiFi connection.
Learn to identify a phishing email. Phishing scams are out to separate you from your money. Many phishing scams are obvious money grabs from some non-existent distant relative in a third-world county who needs your help via a bank transfer. Many other scams are cleverly disguised emails that look amazingly similar to the legit versions. Crafty phishing email campaigns are frequently paired with a spoofed website. The website may encourage the victim to make a purchase, reset a password, or enter in other financial credentials on the fake website. All of this is used to make fraudulent credit card charges, gain more information about the victim, or transfer money from your bank account.
Many credit cards have a handy feature where account holders can set up SMS text notifications every time there is a charge on any account I own. The notification happens almost instantly. If a hacker grabs my credit card information they will have to rack up a lot of $1 charges before it is all shut down.
Shop with another layer of security. I never use a bank card, including debit cards, online. Use a credit card rather than carries fraud protection than a bank card or use PayPal. I use PayPal as much as possible as it adds a layer of security between the hacker and my bank account numbers.
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Remember the easier it is for you to complete a purchase online, the easier it is for hackers to intercept your money – someway, somehow. Where there it is by spoofing the website or phishing your login information from a fraudulent email. Slow down a bit and vet marketing emails carefully to make sure the sender is really who you think it is. Delete all suspicious looking emails and mark them as SPAM. Protect yourself by going directly to the seller’s website rather than clicking on links on social media or in emails.
Michelle writes about cyber security, data privacy focusing on social media privacy as well as how to protect your IoT devices. She has worked in internet technology for over 20 years and owns METRONY, LLC. Michelle earned a B.S. in Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Michelle published a guide to Cyber Security for Business Travelers