Online shopping is something many are becoming increasingly familiar with in the digital age. From Amazon Prime to special online-only sales, anything one could ever want, or need can be bought online. However, an aspect of online shopping that is often overlooked is security. This means being aware of what sites you are visiting as well as what information you are providing. There are several steps that are easy and effective in ensuring online safety that anyone can and should work on implementing into their everyday lives.
Don’t Shop on Public Wi-Fi
Inputting your personal information on any site while on public Wi-Fi or a hot spot is just asking for that information to be stolen. These Wi-Fi spots are not secured and allow anyone access to them. Everyone can see what everyone else is doing, including shopping. You wouldn’t want to type out your Amazon password with a stranger looking over your shoulder, but that’s essentially what you’re doing when on a public network.
You also want to be wary of stores that use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to track your movements within their stores or websites. This could be another potential avenue for hackers to get into your device and steal your data.
Password protection dos and don’ts
You’ve probably heard this a thousand times before, but protecting passwords is the easiest thing you can do to safeguard your information. You should have a different password for each site or app. Using a password manager can be helpful with this. You also want to make sure that you are changing your passwords on a regular basis, at least every thirty to ninety days.
Unique passwords or sentences as passwords are also a good idea. The more complicated the password is the better. It’s also a good idea not to share your passwords with too many people. Is it really secure if ten people know it?
Virtual account numbers
Virtual account numbers are special cards with a set time and amount to spend, and after they expire the card and money on it are no good. This is a safe alternative to using your debit card online. If someone gets access to your debit card, they have access to your bank account and could end up costing you plenty before the transactions are sorted out.
If you don’t have access to this type of card a standard credit card is still more secure than a debit card. Most credit card companies give you 60 days to report theft, while some banks only give you 2 business days for reporting debit card fraud.
Beware of links in emails and on social media
The days when you could safely click a link on Facebook and buy that new amazing thing safely and securely are gone. Today hackers are using links and attachments to deliver malicious malware and ransomware to your system. It is always best to type in the address to your address bar manually, rather than clicking the link. Always make sure that the site you think you are going to is actually the site you end up on. You can verify that the link is legit by hovering your mouse over it, which will display the address it links to. This way you can see where the link takes you before clicking it.
It doesn’t hurt to follow the old adage, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” So, if that post on Facebook for the $20 iPad seems like too good of a deal, it most likely is. Stick to reputable sites and places you have shopped before. Losing your money to thieves is not worth saving money on a tablet.
Beware of what info is asked for
Would you enter your social security number on Amazon if they suddenly asked you to provide it to make a purchase? Of course not. Be wary of what information the site is asking for. If it seems strange or out of place, it’s probably not legit. Things like name, phone, email, and address are all pretty standard things for a shopping site to ask for. Social security numbers, bank account numbers, or driver’s license number however are not standard practice for shopping online.
Look for the https
When you visit a webpage look for the https in the address. The difference between http and https is how secure the site is. The extra “s” means that the site is secure and safe. It encrypts the message so that only the intended recipient sees the information. If you’re shopping there it should have https in the address bar. If it doesn’t, don’t shop there.
Beware shopping on mobile devices
We all do it. We hit up Amazon or some other shopping app on our phone or tablet because it’s easy and convenient. We like shopping from our couches or chairs without going to the computer. But the potential for identity theft or the theft of your payment information is far greater from a mobile device than the family desktop.
Beware of shortened URLs. It is common to see them on a phone or mobile device, but could also be a trick to get you to click on them. Use the full address and avoid these shortened ones. Another thing to remember is to download a virus protection app for your device. Most devices don’t natively come with one, but the device is just as prone to hackers and malware as your PC. You want to keep them clean and safe, especially if this is your primary means of shopping or browsing.
Understanding how online security works is a valuable skill that can help prevent implications in the future. By being aware of your online presence and who can see your information you can better protect yourself from identity theft or credit card fraud. Implementing these techniques into your online life is easy, simple and could save you a number of headaches in the future.
Brian Gray, MCP, is the President at Kraft Technology Group, LLC (KTG), an affiliate of KraftCPAs PLLC. Within his role, Brian is responsible for all aspects of service delivery to our clients. Brian has a decade of experience working for managed service providers. He has worked with clients in a variety of industries, including financial services, accounting, legal, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail.