Welcome to the holidays! It’s the time of the year when, rather than heading to brick-and-mortar stores, we often head online looking for bargains. Although you may be hoping to catch a good deal, cyber criminals are hoping to catch something even more valuable—your information.
AllClear ID, a TDS security partner, says shopping online can be great, “but only if you know how to protect yourself and your family during your online activities…any time you mix Internet websites, your financial information, and your personal data, the chances for identity theft go up.”
So while it tis the season to be jolly, it’s also the perfect time to consider these six online shopping tips:
- Don’t get phished. Odds are, your email inbox is being flooded with special offers right now. But, clicking on links directly from emails can be risky—it could be a phishing attempt. Rather than using email links, F-Secure recommends “shopping deliberately” and going directly to the store’s website. If you DO use an email link, make sure you end up at that store’s official site and that the web address begins with “https” with the lock symbol.
- Going mobile? Use the store’s app. AllClear ID says if you have the option to shop through a dedicated store app, that’s usually a safer bet than trying to browse and buy on the mobile version of the store’s main website.
- Passcode your device. Many of us always carry our phones or tablets with us at all times, putting them at risk of theft or loss. Since those devices are “gateways to our identities,” it’s important to use a passcode lock. Yes, it takes a few extra moments, but it’s well worth it if it prevents your identity from being stolen.
- Create unique account passwords. If you use the same password for every online account, a single data breach can unlock all of them. Create strong, unique passwords for every website where you shop.
- Avoid clickbait. If a website you’ve never heard of is claiming to have hottest holiday toys and gadgets at unbelievable prices, think twice. AllClear ID also says to very careful around online auction sites that say they’re selling iPads for $50 or flat-screen televisions for $100. By sticking with major retailers and known web addresses, you’re more likely to actually receive your purchases. The security firm also says your identity is also more securely protected, even in the event of a hacking, due to insurance against data breaches that many companies have in place.
- Secure your computer. Passwords won’t help much if your computer gets infected by viruses and malware. F-Secure is specifically predicting that ransomware—malicious software that lets criminals lock people out of their computer until they pay a “ransom”—will be a problem this season. Having anti-virus software in place before you shop is the way to go. Once installed, you’ll need to make sure you update it routinely whenever notifications arrive. Or, you can choose an always-on, always up-to-date solution such as TDS Home Internet Security.
May you have a safe, and secure, holiday season!
Image courtesy of blackzheep at FreeDigitalPhotos.net