Safe online shopping tips for those holiday deals

Safety tips from a cyber security expert for a better online shopping experience

‘Tis the season for those “too-good-to-be-true” online shopping deals. While the convenience of browsing and buying online cannot be denied, online shopping should always be done with a cautious eye. Quite often, a deal seems to good to be true because it is, and it can entice you to hand over your personal information in the chase for the great bargain.

These fraudulent websites, and the numerous phishing emails tempting us, should not to be taken lightly when it comes to personal payment information. There are so many options available in the market, it is important for consumers to be aware of the potential pitfalls associated with purchasing items online, be they big-ticket appliances or a huge fashion haul. Online shoppers are at a high risk of unknowingly sharing their payment information — and exposing themselves to fraud — through third-party websites.
This is not meant to be alarming; it is more about exercising caution. We have put together a list of tips to help you — the shopper — protect your purchase and ensure what you order is exactly what will arrive on your doorstep.

Keep it familiar
There are an endless number of websites and ads out there in cyberspace wanting to sell you things. Never click on a pop-up ad or link in an email, instead, research the company’s original website address (URL). Also stick to the established websites that you know and trust since scam-riddled e-Commerce sites are likely to pop up during busy online shopping periods. If a social media profile is offering an in-demand item for a price that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Use third-party payment options
Never pay for a purchase via e-transfer over social media. A legitimate offer should have secure checkout options. If possible, try to use PayPal, Google Pay, or Apple Pay when making those holiday purchases. Third party payment applications add an extra layer of security and stop a website from storing your banking information and your personal banking information from the retailer.

Read reviews
It might sound strange, but if an item or site only has good reviews, be wary. A legitimate retailer always has one or two bad reviews (which may or may not be justified). When only glowing reviews are available, they are likely fake.

Check out as a guest
Whenever possible, do not create an account with an online retailer. Instead, check out as a guest. This saves you from sharing your data footprint with them. If they end up having a data breach, your data will not be available to be compromised.

Don’t store payment details
Don’t prioritize convenience over safety. If you use a retailer often, you may be tempted to save your credit card number for ease. But remember many major retailers have suffered data breaches in the past and there is no way to ensure that you will not become a victim. Another useful tip is to use a virtual credit card instead of your real one. The virtual credit card gives you a number that is tied to your credit card for short-term use and provides another layer of security.

Connect to a secure wireless network
You never know if a public Wi-Fi hotspot has been compromised or is secure, so avoid any sort of banking activity online and wait until you can connect securely. Connecting to a compromised network and typing in personal information will make it easy for bad actors to collect any personal information you input on your device. Your device could get infected by malware, or your sensitive data could get pilfered. However, people are busy creatures and have errands to run throughout the day, so they might sneak in a bit of online shopping here and there. If you still want to use that public hotspot, add a virtual private network (VPN) so that you can shield your traffic and do your shopping safely.

Limiting your online purchases via safe and familiar Internet connections is better, so your best bet is to either use your phone’s data plan or  connecting to your home Wi-Fi network. However, your home network security shouldn’t be underestimated either. If you haven’t touched the security settings of your router since its out-of-the-box installation, now would be the time to set it up properly and ensure maximum protection.

By Tony Anscombe, Chief Cybersecurity Evangelist at global IT security software company ESET.

– Canadian Immigrant

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