It seems that you can find absolutely anything while shopping online, but unfortunately, this also includes cyber threats. No deal is worth the risk of a hacking attack, but some best practices can help you stay safe while searching for that great bargain.
Stick to What You Know
When making an online transaction, well-known websites can safely be considered to be more secure than the smaller, never-heard-of-it sites that a search engine may bring up, or than the opportunities search engines present to buy the item directly from the search. Large retailers, like Amazon, Walmart, and other recognizable brands have a large incentive to protect their customers from financially-motivated cyber crimes like identity theft, and so they are more likely to have considerable capital invested in their customers’ data security. The smaller sites don’t have nearly the resources or the public-opinion-driven incentive, and may even rip you off.
However, be careful that the web address is spelled properly and is using the correct domain in the URL. Hackers will generate these sites to trick their victims into falling for a phishing scam. The “great deal” they just tried to snag may ultimately allow the site to snag their credentials and financial information.
Look for the Padlock
The next time you visit a website that asks for your credit card information, check the URL again, but this time, check to see that it begins with HTTPS. HTTPS signifies that the usual HTTP, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, has added security (hence the added S) thanks to an added secure sockets layer of encryption. There should also be a padlock icon displayed in your address bar.
These are indications that the site has been encrypted in order to safely process payment information. Sites with just HTTP and without the lock are inherently more susceptible to have their information hijacked during transit, including the information a customer inputs. Naturally, these sites should be avoided.
Be Mindful When Mobile
Many people are known to visit a store only to determine if an item is indeed the one that they want before ordering it online. Be wary if you are connected to a public Wi-Fi when doing your online shopping. Due to their high susceptibility to cyber attack, your activity while connected to these digital minefields should be limited at most, and should never include anything that involves sensitive personal or financial information.
If your online shopping ‘trip’ is informed by these tips, you should be able to remain safe and sound while you make your purchases.
What’s on your wish list this holiday season? Let us know in the comments!