Tips for Secure Online Holiday Shopping

The holiday shopping season is here, and online scammers, hackers, and cons are in a cheery mood. These entrepreneurial criminals have been preparing their strategies and marketing tactics just like businesses, and they are expecting to get rich off you this holiday season, the shopper.

When the holiday season arrives, it is important to be extra cautious and conscientious when shopping online. We want holiday gifts under your tree and in your stockings, not in the hands of cybercriminals. Remember, an ounce of cybersecurity prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Check for Device Updates Before You Shop

Computers, tablets, and phones are sent updates because they are critically needed. Devices with old or unpatched software have vulnerabilities cybercriminals can exploit to gain access and control of devices. If you are going to do online shopping, make sure you check for updates before you start.

Don’t Click Website Links in Your Email

Cybercriminals create emails disguised to look like they came from familiar businesses such as Amazon and Walmart. Often, their objective is to fool you into clicking a link in the email. If you click the link, it can lead to a malicious website and begin downloading malware. Play it safe, and don’t click website links in emails. Instead, go to the website directly.

Use a Wallet App

I highly recommend using a payment application like Apple Pay, Google Pay, or PayPal when possible. You take a risk when you give your payment card information to a website. Most online retailers have, will be, or currently are compromised. When you pay through a payment app, the retailer never receives your debit or credit card information. If you do use a payment card, remove the information from the site after checking out.

Look for the Lock Icon or HTTPS in the Web Address (Emphasis on “S”)

HTTPS means that the data passing through the website is encrypted. If the website URL does not have HTTPS, absolutely do not shop on it. You can also look for the small lock icon in front of the web address.

Do Not Shop When on Public Wi-Fi

In general, you should assume a cybercriminal is monitoring you when you are on public Wi-Fi, but during the holiday season, you can expect that they are. Hackers prey on devices connected to public WiFi like bears do salmon in a stream. If you must shop online in public, switch to your mobile carrier connection.