Who doesn’t love shopping online? The simplicity, the selection, the ability to filter by price—awesome. But it’s important to make sure you’re not giving up security for convenience. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to help keep your information safe while shopping from the comfort of your couch.
So, as you scroll your way through your next online shopping spree, consider these 8 tips to help ensure your online information is protected and your purchases are safe.
1. If an Online Store Isn’t Secure, Don’t Shop There
It’s not worth exposing your personal information, no matter how good the deal may seem. But how can you tell if a site is secure? Look at the site’s URL: Does it start with “http” or “https?” URLs that begin with “https” are encrypted to help secure your personal information. An image of a padlock in the address bar is also an indication of a more secure website.
2. Consider Shopping Online with a Credit Card Rather Than a Debit Card
If hackers gain access to your debit card and make purchases, money may come directly out of your checking account until the problem is resolved. If your credit card number is stolen, you won’t be responsible for fraudulent purchases. The same is true for debit, but only if you report the fraudulent charges within 60 days of your statement being sent to you. Otherwise, you may be on the hook for them.
3. Don’t Shop on Public Wi-Fi
It’s hard to imagine a better way to unwind than with a tall latte and a little retail therapy at your favorite coffee shop. Unfortunately, you may be giving a hacker easy access to your credit card information. Public Wi-Fi is just that—public. Enjoy your coffee and feel free to add items to your shopping cart, but pass on making any purchase until you have a private connection to help prevent credit card fraud.
4. Beware of Email Alerts
Each year, hackers steal the identities of millions of people and make billions of dollars in illegal purchases. Hackers are experts at sending emails that appear to be from real companies. Such scams—known as phishing attacks—ask you to click on a link to verify a purchase or financial information. But don’t do it. These links are designed to steal your private information. Instead, contact the company directly to find out if the email you’ve received is actually from them.
5. Avoid Commonly Used Password Phrases
A strong password is one of the best ways to protect yourself while shopping online. Longer passwords are more secure and generally should include a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Try to avoid using full words, which are easier for hackers to decipher.
6. Don’t Share Your Social Security Number
If an online retailer asks for your Social Security number, help protect yourself from identity theft by finding a different place to shop. Legitimate shopping sites don’t need it and won’t ask for it. If hackers get your SSN, it’s much easier for them to use your identity to make illegal purchases.
7. Regularly Check Your Transaction Records
Be on the lookout for any questionable purchases that show up on your credit or debit card statements, and immediately if you see any contact the bank or card issuer. Try using a mobile wallet that lets you track activity on your accounts.
The quicker you report the issue, the quicker it can be resolved. It’s also a good idea to check your credit report regularly. There are plenty of free credit score apps like CreditWise® from Capital One that allow you to check your credit score anytime without hurting it. If a hacker opens a credit card account in your name, and you’re not monitoring your credit you may not know about it until the account is in default. Situations like this can damage your credit score and can take months—even years—to resolve.
8. Pay quickly and securely
Try using Capital One MasterpassTM or Visa Checkout to avoid typing in your card number when you check out online. When you pay, a unique number is shared with the retailer instead of your actual card details, helping to keep your information protected. It’s a simple way to pay for purchases online, and you’ll save time while helping to safeguard your identity.