More and more people shop online.. Mid-2016 marked a milestone in online commerce when, for the first time, the number of goods bought online exceeded the number of goods purchased in stores. That trend has continued. Last Christmas, 50% of gifts were purchased online, compared with 43% in stores. This Christmas season will likely see the online shopping swing intensify.
Shopping online comes with risks, and you must protect yourself. Fortunately, you can stay safe online by following a few basic tips:
- Freeze your credit. This is particularly important in the wake of the Equifax brief. By freezing your credit, thieves won’t be able to open new lines of credit in your name. The three major credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian – have made it fairly easy. Of course, once you freeze your credit, you’ll have to jump through more hoops before opening up your own new line of credit, which actually may save you from financing a big impulse buy!
- Try to limit purchases to sites that have developed a reputation for providing a secure buying experience. These companies have been able to work out the kinks and have a team of security experts protecting their systems.
- Use a different password for every site you visit. If you use the same password for every site, once a hacker steals it, they can make purchases at all the sites you visit.
- Do not click on links in your email. Phishing scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and thieves are getting better at tricking unsuspecting people into clicking on links that end up downloading malware. Just don’t click!
- Don’t purchase anything from a public computer. Websites leave a rich information trail behind, and the next user could use this trail to take over your shopping cart.
- Never save passwords in your browser. Yes, it’s convenient to have the password field already filled in. But it’s very easy for the next person who uses your computer to see what that password is.
- If you shop on the go, use your cellular data instead of a place’s open wi-fi. Your cellular connection is encrypted; open wi-fi is not.
- Update your anti-malware software. That way, if you do click on an errant link, the malware it downloads will be less likely to cause harm.
Following these simple tips should keep you safe online this holiday season. Happy shopping!