Cybersecurity Tips for Online Christmas Shopping This Year

With Thanksgiving only just behind us, we turn, with our overly-full bellies, toward the most wonderful time of the year! Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and more — whatever you are celebrating as the months turn chillier and chillier, you are likely getting right into the swing of the spirit of the season already. While this can include things like decorating, playing holiday music, and setting plans to get together with loved ones, it also includes for many of us lots and lots of shopping for gifts for said loved ones. Despite worries about supply chains not being able to keep up with demand for a variety of reasons in the 2021 holiday season, online shopping is still expected to be as high as other years as global online spending is projected to increase by 11% to $910 billion. If you’re one of those shoppers who is planning to do some online shopping this holiday season, it is essential that you keep yourself and your data safe. With this in mind, please consider these cybersecurity tips!

  1. Shop only from secure websites – While you may shop from businesses that you haven’t before, it is still important to ensure that you verify that the websites you are shopping from are legitimate websites that will keep your data secure. An easy way to check whether or not a site is secure is by looking for “https” — the s at the end is what signifies secure vs. unsecured. Be sure to check for this prior to entering any identifiable information such as your address or credit card credentials.
  2. Beware phishing scams – Malicious actors online are always trying to dupe folks into clicking on fictitious links in order to gain access to their personal information or to take control of their devices; this activity only worsens during the holiday season, as phishers know that your are trying to shop shop shop for the best deals for your family. Avoid falling for these scams by not clicking on links from unknown sources, double checking the senders in emails offering online deals, and avoiding emails which are riddled with poor grammar and immediate demands. If you see any of these things in your inbox, it may likely be a phishing scam.
  3. Opt to use your credit card over your debit card – Though avoiding credit card debt is an understandable desire, particularly when buying many presents for many people, it is better to purchase things online via credit card. Why, you might ask? Because, there are greater consumer protections in place for credit card purchases than there are for items purchased on debit cards. In addition to this, debit cards are tied directly to your checking account — meaning if a malicious actor gained access to this account instead of your credit card account, they would have direct access to your money rather than the bank’s money which is available via credit card.
  4. Secure your devices used for shopping – Password protecting your devices is always a good security move, as this simple step helps to protect your data from the physical cybersecurity threat of theft. However, it is even more essential if this is a device which you are using to shop online. Ensure all devices you choose to use are up-to-date on their security software in order to further protect yourself. Additionally, depending upon your web browser, you may be asked if you would like to save your credit card information for future use — do not do this, as this makes it that much easier for a malicious actor (online or in-person) to take your financial information.
  5. Review your statements in-depth – In order to double check that all of your purchases cost you what you had expected them to, it is a great idea to check your bank statements always. You should be especially sure to do this around the holidays when you are likely shopping from more vendors than you usually would be at any other time of year. This can help you to verify your legitimate purchases and keep and eye out for any suspicious activity as well.

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