5 Tips to Protect Yourself While Shopping Online this Holiday Season

Stay festive with smart decisions like using virtual card numbers


The holidays are packed with joyful moments like baking cookies, playing games, and welcoming friends and family into our homes. But, how do we protect ourselves against uninvited guests who aren’t spreading holiday cheer? While you may not be able to avoid your grouchy next door neighbor, you can take steps to steer clear of virtual visitors looking to commit credit card fraud.

The holidays wouldn’t be the season of giving and gifting without also being the time for shopping. This year, we expect much of this season’s shopping to occur online; 6 out of 10 holiday shoppers plan to buy gifts online in 2018. With so many of us logging on to purchase presents, it’s important to understand how to protect ourselves from the risks that accompany online shopping, including data breaches and identity theft. Online security is essential, but deciphering how to protect ourselves can be confusing. While the risks of shopping and sharing our information online seem unavoidable, there are steps we can take to make online security a little easier.

Give yourself the gift of a peaceful mind by taking these five precautions to help protect yourself while shopping online this holiday season.

1. Pay for online shopping with a credit card, not a debit card

If your credit card number is used for fraudulent purchases, you won’t be responsible for paying for those items, as long as you report the issue to your credit card company. This is also true for debit cards, but it is a little trickier. If hackers use your debit card, that money may come directly from your checking account, and won’t be returned until the issue is resolved. In addition, debit card fraud must be reported within 60 days of your statement being sent, otherwise, you might be responsible for paying for them.

2. Shop with virtual credit card numbers

Add another layer of protection and shop more securely online with virtual credit card numbers. Virtual credit card numbers allow you to generate unique virtual numbers that work like an “alias” for your actual credit card number. That means you’re not sharing your real credit card number when you’re shopping online, keeping your personal info under wraps.  With Capital One’s Eno browser add-on, you can seamlessly use virtual card numbers from wherever you’re already shopping online; the tool automatically creates a unique number for each website you shop at right from the checkout page.

Here’s how it works:

  • If you’re a Capital One credit card customer, Install the browser add—on it’s free.
  • Keep shopping online like you normally do. When you’re ready to pay, the add-on will pop up and prompt you to create a new virtual card number for that site.
  • All the purchases are linked back to your credit card account, which means you can keep earning rewards for the purchases you make online.
  • If a website on which you’ve used a virtual card number is compromised, just lock or delete the virtual number associated with that merchant—without affecting your other spending.

3. Check your transactions regularly

During the holiday shopping season, take a cue from Santa— “make your purchases and check them twice.” During heightened periods of online shopping, it’s especially important to keep an eye on what you buy. Review your statement to look out for questionable purchases and immediately report any oddities to your credit card company. The quicker you report an issue, the easier it will be to resolve. With the Capital One mobile app, you’ll receive instant purchase notifications and be able to lock your card if it gets lost or stolen.

4. Avoid easy-to-guess passwords

Sure, “password123” is easy for you to remember, but it’s also pretty easy for thieves—both human and bot— to hack. Longer passwords with less commonly used words are generally more secure, and should use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and symbols. It’s also good practice to create unique passwords across the websites you use. If you have trouble keeping track, try a secure password storage system like LastPass to hold your login information across apps and websites.

5. Keep your information to yourself

Exercising caution with the information you share while shopping online is a good rule of thumb. Think twice before you give your particulars to a suspicious email or website, and avoid shopping from retailers who don’t seem legitimate.

  • Don’t share your social security number (SSN) when shopping online, even if prompted. Legitimate shopping sites will not ask for your SSN, and this should be an immediate tip off to steer clear.
  • Be wary of email phishing scams - hackers have become experts at creating emails that look like they come from real business, and may ask for you to provide information on a recent purchase, for example. If you get an email that looks suspicious, do not reply, instead, contact the retailer directly to inquire about the issue.

Emily Baseman
Emily Baseman, Manager, Brand
Emily Baseman is a Midwestern transplant to Washington, D.C. By day, Emily helps Capital One use social media to tell its brand story. Outside of work, she dabbles in healthy cooking, exploring the local fitness scene, and writing about both. She's obsessed with her tiny dog, Bascom, cold brew coffee, and cheese of all kinds.

Unless noted otherwise in this post, Capital One is not affiliated with, nor is it endorsed by, any of the companies mentioned. All trademarks and other intellectual property used or displayed are the ownership of their respective owners. This article is © 2018 Capital One.