Fire up your phones, tablets and laptops, another holiday shopping season is upon us and as always, some of the best deals will be found online. The National Retail Federation (NRF) says online sales will grow by as much as 11 percent this season.
Whether you start early and take advantage of Cyber Monday deals or wait until the last minute, keep these safe online shopping tips in mind.
1. Update your security software. No matter what device you use, whether it be a PC, Mac, tablet or mobile device, make sure it has the latest and most up to date security software, operating system and apps. This is a good first layer of defense that should be followed year-round.
2. Use secure sites. Before you buy or type in any sensitive information online, check to see that it is a "secure" site. Secure sites will typically have a closed padlock in the status bar and the URL will start with HTTPS:// (not just HTTP://). These two clues indicate that the site is encrypted or secured.
3. Avoid 123456. Password theft is one of the most common and easy ways that hackers can ruin your holiday season. Unfortunately, many people use the same or simple passwords for numerous accounts. Create a strong password by using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Do not use your name, family names, words in the dictionary like "password" or 123456.
4. Use one credit card. Dedicate one credit card for all of your shopping needs. Credit cards are generally the safest option because they aren’t directly connected to your bank account and they can be cut off immediately. NEVER use your debit card.
5. Keep a record of your gift purchases. Save records of your online transactions, including the product description, price, online receipt, and emails. Once you receive your credit card statements, make sure they match. If there is a discrepancy, call your bank and report it immediately.
6. Shop at home instead of the coffee shop. There’s no place like home for online holiday shopping. A secure Internet network connection, like in most homes or workplaces, is ideal.
7. Keep spam where it belongs. During the holidays your inbox could be filled with junk emails that offer large discounts. Always be cautious of any emails that you receive from unknown recipients or those that seem too generous.
8. Protect your information from nosey elves. Be careful with the information that you give out this holiday season. Retailers and others (both legit and fake) are eager to learn as much about you and your shopping habits as they can in order to better target you as a customer. While this could provide some perks in the form of discounts, ads or coupons, be wary that the more they know the easier it is to steal your identity.
9. Don’t reload confirmation pages. A site may accidentally charge you multiple times if you keep trying to reload or refresh a confirmation page.
10. Use common sense. Even if the deal is amazing, don't shop at a site if it feels a little strange or it makes you think twice. There is such a thing as too good to be true.
Cheers to a safe and healthy holiday season with family and friends. Happy clicking!