Looking to get ahead of your holiday shopping from the comfort of your own home? For those who prefer not to be trampled by crazed Black Friday shoppers, but still like to score great deals, Cyber Monday is the ultimate alternative. However, while you may be safe from the danger that other shoppers present, you aren't necessarily out of the woods. Shopping online can be just as dangerous as being in the TV isle on Black Friday. Identity theft, false advertising, and hidden fees are just a few of the risks you run while shopping online.
It can be tempting to abandon online shopping precautions in order to score the good deals while they last. But if you're not doing your due diligence before clicking that "checkout" button, you are running the risk of giving yourself the gift of an empty bank account. So, in order to help you with your Cyber Monday shopping, we've crafted a list of six precautions to take before opening your cyber wallet this holiday season.
1. Update Your Operating System & Internet Browser
If your computer has been begging you to upgrade its Operating System for days, weeks, or months; it's time to stop clicking "remind me later." Likewise, if a free internet browser update is available, take advantage of it! Although these updates may call for a restart of your system, the benefits will pay off tenfold in the long run.
In many cases, you are able to change your settings so that these upgrades are installed automatically. Often times, harmful programs will target vulnerabilities in an OS or browser. Once identified, these vulnerabilities should be eliminated with an upgrade.
2. Do a Background Check on the Vendor
Often times, malicious websites will target shoppers looking for a great deal on a popular item. If you are shopping on a website that you are not familiar with, do a background check first. Try putting the name of the website into a Google search. If other shoppers have had bad experiences with this website in the past, there will most likely be a review available.
Additionally, it is a good idea to look for a phone number or email address to contact from the website in question. That way, if something does go wrong, you'll have a way to contact the vendor with your concerns.
Another way to get the answers that you are looking for is by asking your friends. Post on Facebook or Twitter asking if anyone has heard of or shopped on the website in the past.
3. Make Sure Checkout is Encrypted
Once you have filled up your shopping cart, it's time to check out. One way to make sure that the information that you are inputting is safe is to verify that the checkout page is encrypted. An encrypted page will have an "https" protocol instead of the more commonly used "http." The added "s" stands for "secure." Additionally, the URL bar within your browser should have a small lock icon in it. Make sure that this image is showing in the actual URL bar instead of the website itself. If the icon is appearing as an image on the website, the site may be trying to trick you into thinking that the page is secure.
4. Use Strong Passwords
You're probably sick of hearing this by now, but when scrambling to create an account on an online shopping website, password strength may be the last thing that you're thinking about. Still, a strong password is an imperative part of protecting yourself from malicious online shopping scams.
Take the time to create a password that will protect your information. Not sure what makes a good password? Check out our important tips for improving password security.
5. Check Your Statements Often
Once you feel secure enough to click that "confirm my order" button, your job isn't done. In order to ensure that you paid only what you agreed upon, you'll need to monitor your bank statements. Make sure there are no mystery charges on your account. Often times, these charges will be in multiple, small amounts over time so as not to raise any red flags. Still, these small fraudulent charges can add up. Eventually, that Tom Brady jersey that you ordered could cost you as much as his contract.
6. Pay with a Credit Card Instead of a Debit Card
If you have the choice, paying with a credit card can be a safer option than paying with a debit card. Credit cards have limits, so the amount that can be spent in your name isn't infinite, as it can be with a debit card. Additionally, if money is spent with your credit card, it can be disputed without it being taken out of your bank account. Since debit cards are tied directly to you bank accounts, if somebody drains your savings account, you're out of money until you get it resolved!
There's no doubt that there are some great deals to be had on Cyber Monday. We're not here to scare you away from doing your holiday shopping from the couch, we just want you to be safe! So before you start punching in your payment information, just remember these six tips!
Oh, and I wear a size "Large" Patriots jersey, by the way.
For helpful tips on online shopping safety, check out these articles which helped craft this post!
Iolo.com: 9 Tips for Safe Online Shopping
Get Safe Online: Shopping
Are you practicing safe BYOD habits?
By Meaghan Moraes
By Gretchen Hoffman