Despite the number of security breaches at high-profile e-retailers that have compromised shopper data, the Internet is, for the most part, a safe and hassle-free place to shop. However, as hackers and cyber criminals develop more sophisticated methods of stealing our personal and financial information, it is important to take steps to safeguard your identity and your money.
The following are some basic precautions that every shopper should consider to protect themselves from online threats:
Shop only on secure websites.
Before you start an online transaction, make sure you see the small lock icon and the word "Secure" next to the website URL. This will ensure that whatever information you share will be handled in a secure manner. Another sure sign that a website is secure is a URL that starts with “https” rather than “http”. The "s" means that your information will be protected. A good rule of thumb is to avoid making a purchase from any website you are not familiar with, no matter how tempting the bargain.
Change your passwords.
Account passwords can be the best line of defense against cybercriminals. Using strong, complex passwords is a must, and it is essential to change them every few months. Never use the same password across all of your accounts, because if one account is hacked they will all be vulnerable. Experts recommend creating a unique password for each website you use.
Be extra cautious when using a mobile device.
Smartphones can do everything a computer does, but most phones are not equipped with the anti-virus software that you have on your computer. This makes it easier for hackers to get malware on your mobile device that could help them steal vital information. There is also the risk of your phone being lost or stolen, so make sure it is password protected so information you have stored on it is not easily accessible.
Use a credit card, not a debit card.
Using a credit card to make online purchases puts a layer of protection between you and the shopping site. If you buy something from a scam site using a debit card or check, your entire bank account is at risk. You can easily track purchases using a single credit card and be reimbursed for fraudulent charges. Check your statements regularly and alert your credit card company if you spot suspicious activity.
Avoid shopping on public Wi-Fi networks.
It’s safe to assume that any public Wi-Fi network is insecure. Most Wi-Fi hotspots do not encrypt your data, which means entering personal information while sitting in your local Starbucks puts you at risk of identity theft. Never enter sensitive data like bank account information, credit or debit card details via your laptop or mobile device when using public Wi-Fi. It may be less convenient to wait until you get home to make the purchase, but it’s far safer.
Don't click links in emails.
Email phishing is the act of impersonating a business or other entity for the purpose of tricking email recipients into giving up sensitive personal information. Many phishing scams involve emails from what appear to be legitimate sites, such as banks and online stores. When you click on the link provided, you are directed to a phony site where you are asked to provide personal information. Data gleaned from phishing often is used to commit identity theft or to gain access to online accounts.
Do not respond to any email message asking for your personal or financial details or click on any links provided included. Instead, type out the URL in your browser to make sure you're directed to the proper website. Remember that reputable sites will not ask for sensitive information via email.
If an online retailer asks for too much information at any point in the shopping process, do not hesitate to stop the transaction and leave the site. The less information you share about yourself and those you may be shopping for, the better. If you have questions or need legal advice regarding fraudulent online activity, please contact us at 973-509-8500 x213 or LFarber@LFarberLaw.com.
The contents of this writing are intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion in any specific facts or circumstances.