Holiday online shopping tips

Posted on: November 28, 2018 | By: Christina Bonds | Filed under: Info Security, Online Safety Tips

5 tips for online shopping graphic

The holiday shopping season has officially arrived, and you have made the decision to do some or all your shopping online this year. Maybe the free shipping offers attracted you or maybe the items you are looking for are not available in brick-and-mortar stores. We all know online threats exist but here are some tips to help minimize your risk of becoming a victim of an online scam.


Tip #1 – Set up alerts

Before you begin your online shopping consider setting up some alerts on your financial accounts. Many credit card companies and banks allow you to set up alerts on your accounts through their online websites. These alerts range from sending you an email or text each time a transaction happens on your account to alerts when transactions meet the minimum or maximum amount thresholds you set.

Alerts make you aware of what’s going on with your account quicker than waiting for the monthly statements. When you receive an alert and you did not authorize the transaction you can call the credit card company or bank immediately. Visit your credit card company and banking websites for available alerts.

Tip #2 – Update device and use a secure network

This should be a familiar tip that is useful even if you are just casually surfing the internet. Keeping your devices up-to-date (including apps and operating systems) ensures you have the latest security fixes. In addition to an updated device, the network the device is connected to is also important. Did you have to enter a password to connect to the network? If you did, that network is more secure than an open one that any device within range can connect to.  Always choose to use a secure network when shopping online or logging in to websites.

Tip #3 – Use a reputable online retailer

Be aware there are fake websites out there waiting to collect your valuable information, especially during this season. Make sure you are on a legitimate site by double checking the URL website address to make sure it is spelled correctly.

Because there are a lot of online retailers these days you are going to be shopping around for the best deals. If a deal is too good to be true or if you have not heard of the retailer before, do your research. Look at reviews to see what others are saying. Did they receive their merchandise? How was the customer service? Is returning an item easy?

Don’t be pressured by the ‘Only 1 left in stock’ or a timer with big numbers letting you know your time is running out on getting the deal in hopes of hurrying you to make the purchase.

Tip #4 – Create unique passwords

Here’s another familiar tip. When online shopping, retailers want you to create accounts with them so you can set up your shipping information, and so you can look at past orders or see the status of existing orders. Using unique passwords protects your accounts in case a retailer is breached and your password for that retailer is exposed. If you reused this password on other accounts someone would be able to access those accounts as well. Consider using a password manager like LastPass to manage all your passwords.

Tip #5 – Be vigilant

Remember that you are in control of your online shopping experience.  Having created alerts, using updated devices with unique account passwords, and shopping with reputable retailers should give you a piece of mind as you shop online.

If in doubt, don’t click checkout.  Another deal is waiting for you at another online retailer.

Happy online shopping!

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Christina Bonds

Christina Bonds, CISSP, is an Application Developer at Elon University

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