Tips for Staying Safe When Shopping Online This Holiday Season

If you’re like many people in this day and age, as the festive season gets closer you’re browsing online for a broader variety of gifts, that will also save you money and time spent driving, parking and lining up in the shops. However, while there are lots of great benefits to be enjoyed from shopping online, it’s also important to keep your finances and personal or business identity safe when you do so. To help you stay safe when shopping online this holiday season, read on for some simple tips you can follow.

Shop From Well-Established, Trusted, Secure Stores

For starters, do your holiday shopping on well-established, popular, trusted stores that have been around for a while and/or have lots of good reviews and testimonials about them posted online so that you can verify they’re legitimate.

When shopping online, keep an eye out for signs of trust which can help you to identify more secure stores. For example, search for the use of a quality, brand-name SSL certificate; guarantees and/or 30-day or other refund policies; participation in programs like the Google Trusted Store platform; and membership of relevant business groups and associations.

More secure sites will also typically provide more information than other shops. For example, you should be able to read detailed information about delivery methods, time frames, and costs; as well as answers to key frequently asked questions. Trustworthy stores also make it easy for you to find numerous contact details, such as phone, email, Live Chat and online contact forms; and they also tend to be regular interactors on social media sites.

It pays to look for signals of security in the checkout before you input any credit card or other payment details, too. For example, once you’re in the checkout, the URL should start with https (on non-payment pages it may be just http — the additional ‘s’ means the page is more secure). As well, legitimate websites won’t ask you for irrelevant personal details in the checkout, such as your social security number or driver’s license number. If you are asked to input this information, don’t go any further.

Opt for More Secure Payment Options

Next, stay safer online by handing over money in more secure ways. Rather than giving out credit-card numbers or other financial details over the phone, for instance, shop on sites that utilize secure, third-party merchant services platforms to handle transactions independently. (Most firms will mention the payment firm they use somewhere on their website, or show it via a site seal or other graphic.)

Many consumers like to buy from stores which use PayPal and/or Apple Pay, too, because they know that then their financial information isn’t seen by the shop they’re purchasing from. Instead, customers store their credit or debit card details, as well as other personal information, in their PayPal or Apple accounts, and the tech giants send payment information securely to the stores on their behalf.

Use Security Software on Your Devices

Next, reduce the risk of your identity or financial information being stolen by installing security software on the devices you use to shop online. Look for products which are comprehensive and will protect you from viruses, malware, spyware, spam, and ransomware as you browse and buy online.

The best ones provide advanced virus protection; keep your online details protected and private; identify data-stealing apps; and block potentially dangerous attachments or whole websites. It also helps to have a firewall installed and activated on your gadgets, since this acts as another line of defense. In addition, make sure you do your online shopping from home, or any other place where your Wi-Fi is secured.

Protect Your Accounts with Strong Passwords

Most people these days have accounts set up with their favorite online retailers, so they don’t have to input their address, phone number, credit card information and other details each time they shop. However, while this is helpful when it comes to convenience, it can increase your risk of exposure if you don’t secure these accounts with proper log-in codes.

Your online accounts should be protected with hard-to-hack passwords made up of a minimum of eight characters. Your chosen codes should contain a mixture of numbers, letters (upper case and lower case) and symbols, and be changed every few months.

It’s also a good idea not to use the same password across all your accounts, so that if a cybercriminal happens to hack one account to get your personal information, they won’t be able to hack into others. If you struggle to remember all your codes, consider using a quality password manager.