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5 Online Shopping Cyber Best Practices to Be Aware Of

Online shopping security is usually a major topic of conversation in the cybersecurity world around the winter holidays when folks shop ’til they drop for loved ones; however, in 2022, we are shopping online everyday and for almost everything! Today, you can get your groceries ordered online and delivered same day. Or you can get a new car that you purchased online sent to you without going to a dealership. Almost anything and everything can be ordered online. Eighty-percent of Americans shop online — that’s 263 million consumers. This number is expected to grow to over 291 million in just 3 years’ time. With online shopping being such an embedded thing in our everyday lives, let’s take a look at some of the things you should keep in mind when buying anything on the Internet.

  1. Only buy from legitimate, safe sites — It is important that you verify that the company you are providing your personal information (i.e. credit card number, home address, etc.) to is a legitimate site which can be trusted to be a good steward of such data. If you are familiar with the company, that can help to ease some of this stress – however, be sure to look at the URL at the top of your screen to ensure you are not on a well-constructed dupe site. If it is a new business you are potentially going to be patronizing, it is important to look for the warning signs of a fake website. If the site looks unprofessional or poorly designed, it is likely a scam site. Another indicator of a poorly constructed site is when information such as return or privacy policies are unclear or missing — if you can’t find this information, which is reasonable for consumers to have access to, close out the tab from that company quickly. Also, look to your fellow consumers — if the site has an abundance of negative reviews, be sure to check what the complaints are and use this to guide you in whether or not you should purchase from this company.
  2. Use trusted Wi-Fi connections — Only conduct your online shopping when connected to private Wi-Fi connections that you know you can trust. This is preferable to shopping online while in public and connected to a store or other pubic entity’s WiFi, because a bunch of strangers also have access to this poorly-password-protected Internet connection. While you hope those around you are not malicious, you never know who could be sitting in the café near you. Only shop online from home if you can help it, or from another location where you can access an Internet connection that does not have a publicly plastered password for all to see.
  3. Go for the credit card over the debit card — A best practice preached by many in the finance realm is to opt for your credit card when shopping online rather than your debit card. This is not so that you rack up high-interest debt, but rather to protect you in the event of a cyber attack or false site. If your card information gets compromised by a data breach or you accidentally fall for a dupe site, your credit card offers you more protection and less liability. The money on your credit card is the bank’s money, and they will usually immediately reverse such a charge and conduct an investigation. If it is your own money on the line from your debit card tied to your checking account, you may be out of luck.
  4. Use strong passwords — It is important to use complex, unique passwords for every different website you use. This goes for those websites which require you to create an account to place an order. Using unique passwords to others you use for your various accounts ensures that in the event of a data breach, your other accounts are not also compromised as well. If you used the same or a similar password for all sites, you would have a massive issue on your hands, with all accounts being made vulnerable.
  5. Don’t fall for phishing scams — Phishing scams are those emails we get that either seem like a deal that is too good to be true or are threatening in nature, trying to scare us into clicking on links. Regardless of the tone of the email, it is important to beware what these emails are. They are usually easily identifiable because they are urgent — be it positive or negative — and also tend to have poor grammar riddled throughout. You can also double check the sender and see if there is something a little off in the format of the email address. Oftentimes, phishers will make fake websites that are close to the legitimate company they are trying to pose as.

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