The 2012 holiday online shopping season is shaping up to be the biggest yet. Harris Interactive conducted a survey regarding this holiday season, and found that 51% of Americans plan on shopping online this year. Everybody has different reasons to shop online, 71% of respondents thought they could find better deals, and 31% want to simply avoid the crowds.
Criminals are good at following trends; they have their online traps baited and ready for the holidays, hoping to nab credit card numbers from unsuspecting shoppers. We are not trying to deter you from shopping online, there are also risks and unpleasantries associated with traditional shopping, like muggings and foul body odors; instead, we want to educate you on four best practices to ensure your online shopping is safe and pleasant this holiday season.
Use a Secure PC
Before you do anything else online, you first need to make sure your computer is secure. You should check your security software, and find out if is up-to-date. It is even a good idea to run a scan before you do a transaction. One trap used by cybercriminals is to plant a keylogger in your system that will keep track of every keystroke. When the keylogger detects anything that looks like sensitive data, it will automatically communicate your information to the wrong people. Another important safeguard is to keep your browser and operating system current, be sure to check for updates before shopping.
Shop Trusted Sites
When you surf the net for deals, you will come across many advertisements tailored to your search engine inquires. If an advertisement sounds too good to be true (like an iPad for 72% off), then it probably is. These too-good-to-be-true ads are likely ploys used to get you to visit a shady third party site. The best practice is to shop the official websites of major companies. If you are enticed to check out an unfamilar site, you can research reviews on Bizrate.com and ResellerRatings.com to find out if the site is legitmate or not.
A Padlock for Your Browser
Before you make a purchase, look for a little padlock icon in your web browser, and make sure the padlock is in the locked position. This means that the site has a secure socket layer (SSL) of encryption to enhance security. One way to double check if the padlock is real or not is look at the URL, if it starts with HTTPS://, instead of HTTP://, this means it is a legitimate SSL site. Several security software companies add an additional layer of shopping protection by giving you the option to open the webpage in a virtual window using their software. Avast calls this the SafeZone, look for this feature with your antivirus software.
Credit, Not Debit
Credit cards give you the option to “charge back” fraudulent transactions to your account if they are caught within an agreed upon period of time, be sure to frequently check your statements to catch any weird transactions. Debit cards do not have this “charge back” feature, if money is stolen from your debit account, then it is gone for good. The most secure option for shopping online is to use gift cards, or rechargeable credit cards.
Three additional online shopping tips are: 1) Never shop over a public Wi-Fi connection, 2) use official apps directly from the company when shopping from your mobile device, and 3) remember to use strong passwords when creating an account. A lot of this boils down to common sense, if your gut is telling you something is fishy then it is best to stay clear.
If you plan on shopping online this year, and you want the best protection for your accounts, then call Michell Consulting Group at 305-592-5433 and we will check your PC and mobile devices for spyware. We can even install, monitor, and maintain your anti-virus software and firewall to maximize your online shopping experience; because we know you have more important things on your mind during this holiday season than cyber-security.