October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and what better way to raise awareness than by talking about online shopping safety. Online shopping has been around for many years and is becoming a way of life for many of us. Now a days you can even purchase your groceries online and schedule a curbside pickup. Sounds pretty convenient, huh? If you’re trying to balance a busy work life, family and social engagements, online shopping can be a lifesaver (it definitely is for my household!). With merchants offering free or low cost shipping, many of us prefer to purchase items from the comfort of our home. Before we click on that check-out button, let’s keep in mind a couple of things…
- Security enabled site/ Look for the lock. Have you ever wondered what the s in htpps:// stands for? The s stands for secured. Make sure that when you are making web purchases, the address starts with an s. On the other hand, a website address that starts with https:// is not secured, so please be very cautious. Also, look for the lock! If you see a green lock displayed to the left of the secured web address, it means that the site is encrypted. Helping protect your payment data from potential hackers.
- Use stronger passwords. Create passwords that are a minimum of 12 characters long. For some of us that might seem a way too long. But it is the only way we can ensure that it will be difficult for someone to figure out. Use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Many of us tend to use common passwords like our kids birthdays, our anniversary or the name of our pets. Avoid passwords like these, as ID thieves know that it’s a common trend.
- Protect your PC. Make sure to scan your computer regularly by running an antivirus software.
- Download the App. If the retailer has an app and you are shopping from your mobile device, it’s usually more convenient if you download the app to make your purchases. When you download the app, make sure you do so from official stores like Google Play or the App Store. Read the apps reviews and description to make sure it’s trustworthy. In my case, I often make purchases using the Amazon app. I have an account that’s linked to it, therefore I don’t have to enter my credit card information every time I purchase something. The credit card data is stored securely.
- Avoid public PC terminals. Using a public computer to make online purchases may leave confidential information behind. If you do use public terminals, log out every time you use them.
- Use a credit card, a pre-paid debit card or PayPal. You shouldn’t use a debit card to make purchases online. Generally, it is safer to use a credit card, since they have better fraud protection policies. Remember, if you use a credit card make sure that you pay the statement in full every month. Another good option when making online payments is PayPal since the merchant receives the payment directly from them and never sees your financial information. PayPal offers purchase protection, which is a money back guarantee on purchases made through them.
- Save your email receipt. Make sure that you do not delete the email receipts/notifications from the merchant. These will come in handy if there is a problem.
- Check your statements. Regularly check your account history or electronic statements for your bank accounts. Keep a close eye on them in case you see any fraudulent charges.
Shopping online can save time and money. After having my little one, I tend to shop online more! Online shopping has been a great convenience for me, especially when my baby was a few days old and I didn’t want to take a trip to the store. It’s so nice to be able to purchase what I need with a click of a button, no long check-out lines, and hassle free! Recently, my baby lost her teether (that I purchased at a brick and mortar business for $4.99). Once I noticed it was missing, I went online and scored the same teether for $3.49 with free shipping (an awesome deal if you ask me)! I will say that sometimes I do not get the best deal on the internet. Do your homework and hit up the brick and mortar store when necessary. Online shopping is not for everyone. My parents, for example, are not fans of shopping online, they prefer running to the store to make their purchases. There is no right or wrong on purchasing your items from the convenience of your home or at a brick and mortar business. It’s simply a matter of preference. Just make sure that when you make your online purchases you do so with caution and keep these tips in mind. With the holiday season approaching, they might come in handy. Happy online shopping!