According to the National Retail Federation, online sales accounted for over $1 trillion of total U.S. retail sales in 2021.1 Online shopping is especially popular during the holiday season, enabling you to avoid the crowds and conveniently purchase gifts using your smartphone or computer. Unfortunately, the popularity of online shopping also means that cyber criminals and online scams are more prevalent than ever. Here are some tips to help protect yourself when shopping online.
Check your device. Make sure that all of your devices (e.g., mobile phone, computer, and tablet) are up-to-date and configured to update automatically or notify you when updates are available.
Maintain strong passwords. Create strong passwords, at least 8 characters long, using a combination of lower- and upper-case letters, numbers, and symbols, and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
Use multi-factor authentication when available. Two-factor or multi-factor authentication, which involves using a one-time code sent to your mobile device in addition to your password, provides an extra layer of protection.
Watch out for phishing emails. Beware of emails that contain links or ask for personal information. Legitimate shopping websites will never email you and randomly ask for your personal information. In addition, don’t be fooled by fake package delivery updates. Make sure that all delivery emails are from reputable delivery companies you recognize.
Beware of scam websites. Typing one word into a search engine to reach a particular retailer’s website may be easy, but it might not take you to the site you are actually looking for. Scam websites often contain URLs that look like misspelled brand or store names to trick online shoppers. To help determine whether an online retailer is reputable, research sites before you shop and read reviews from previous customers. Look for https:// in the URL and not just http://, since the “s” indicates a secure connection.
Use credit instead of debit. Credit cards generally have better protection than debit cards against fraudulent charges. In addition, consider using a mobile payment service (e.g., Apple Pay or Google Pay), which doesn’t require you to give your credit-card information directly to a merchant.
1) National Retail Federation, 2022