Safety Tips for Online Holiday Shopping

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Bianca Buie

By Bianca Buie, Financial Team Lead

While Black Friday and cyber Monday got their start in the United States, they have become major retail shopping days globally. The day after Thanksgiving kicks of the holiday shopping season in almost 20 countries including Canada, United Kingdom, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, Russia, India and Pakistan.

In the UK, online shoppers spent £1.49bn on Black Friday in 2018. In the U.S., Cyber Monday 2018 broke a record with $7.9 billion in online sales. Analysts predict online sales will increase by 13 to 15 percent for the 2019 holiday season.

With increased online shopping comes the risk of cyber fraud. Last year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, online fraud attempts increased by 22 percent in the United States.

The types of scams range from fraudulent retail websites to fake gift card offers and shipping notifications. Cyber thieves are after your credit card information, as well as your personal information. Once they have it, they may be able to open fraudulent banking or credit card accounts, go on a shopping spree, file false tax forms or sell your information to others.

Repairing the damage of cyber crime can be physically and emotionally exhausting. One study found that 22 percent of consumers who had experienced identity theft had to take time off from work to address the repercussions. Another study found that 41 percent of identity theft victims had trouble sleeping. Other physical symptoms can include body aches, heart palpitations, sweating and stomach issues.

While there is no fail-safe way to protect yourself while shopping online, the suggestions below can make it harder for criminals to steal your information:

Shop with online retailers that you know and trust. If you are not familiar with the retailer, do some research to confirm they are legitimate. Do they have negative or positive online reviews? For independent websites, you can check their online reviews on a site like TrustPilot.

Make sure the website is secure. Look for the following:

  • Padlock symbol – There should be a padlock in the address bar next to the website address.
  • Valid certificate – If you click the padlock symbol or just to the left of the address bar, you should see who registered the site. If you get a warning about a certificate, avoid the website.
  • Website address – This should start with https://. The S stands for secure
  • Green address bar – On certain browsers and websites the address bar will turn green, indicating the site is safe. If the address bar is red, the site is considered unsafe and should be avoided.

Find out if key information is listed on the website.  How long will delivery take? Where is item being shipped from? What is the return policy? Knowing what the policy is will help you if something is not delivered or arrives broken. If the return policy is not posted, you should be suspicious.

Make sure your software and anti-virus protection is up-to-date. Updates often contain changes which help protect you and your devices from scammers and online criminals.

Use strong passwords for online accounts and update regularly.

Don’t share pin numbers or passwords. In a survey of online shoppers in Ireland, 23 percent of the 18 to 24 year olds surveyed reported they had shared their online banking pin or password with someone.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi. Your standard data connection is more secure.

Pay for your purchase using a credit card or reputable e-money service like PayPal. Credit cards offer better fraud protection than debit cards. Alternatively, using online services like PayPal means you will not have to give out your actual credit card details to retailers.

Be smart. If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

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