The 7 Steps to Shopping Safely Online

November 16, 2017

2:30 pm

With the holiday season baring down on us, holiday shoppers everywhere are exercising their clicking fingers and combing through countless Amazon search results pages in their hunt for the perfect online shopping deals. But all that credit card information isn’t necessarily safe, as we’ve seen in the numerous online security breaches this year.

When you’re out shopping, you need to shop safe. Here’s the best, most recently updated list of tips available to help you navigate online shopping in a truly safe manner.

Buy at Well-Known Sites

One easy tip: Shop at websites you know in order to ensure that no bad actor has created their own site in an attempt to collect personal information. But you’ll still need to be careful when on the biggest sites, as the next point explains.

…But Watch for Typos

“Phishing” refers to a type of hack in which an email or website link is faked. If you’re fooled, the hacker gets your personal information. The way to avoid it: Check for typos. If the website you’re on is Walmaart[.]co or target-officialsite[.]com, don’t go for it. Check for misspelled promotional emails, URLs, or email addresses themselves. Here’s one list of possible problems, pulled from a report by cyber threat intelligence company DomainTools which I have covered in the past.

  • extra added letters in the domain, such as Yahooo[.]com
  • ‘rn’ disguised as an ‘m’, such as modem[.]com versus modern[.]com
  • 1’s disguised as l’s, such as wa1mart[.]com
  • added affixes, such as starbucks[.]com-latte[.]us

Secure Your Wi-Fi Network

You’ll want to avoid public Wi-Fi when online shopping, as it won’t be running on a secured network. That means don’t buy all your gifts while sitting at Starbucks. To ensure your home network is safe, you may want to consider getting your firmware updated or activating a firewall. You can read up on the options here.

Consider Antivirus Software

Plenty of safe, free antivirus software is available online.

Don’t Download Apps You Don’t Trust

Remember phishers? They impersonate apps, too, and might just make up their own in order to get your information.

Actually, you might even be able to get away without downloading any apps at all. As cool as those AR shopping apps are, the average number of apps a user downloads per month is zero, so you’d fit right in.

Check Your Facebook Privacy Settings

Facebook asks for a lot of personal information, and might even be displaying it publicly. If you have the name of a favorite pet in your password, and you also have little Fluffy front and center in your profile pic, no hacker worth their salt could resist guessing that password. Make your photos and information only available to your Facebook friends, and you’ll leave yourself a little less open every time you crack open a new browser window for an online shopping session.

Use Stronger Passwords and Change Old Ones

If you’re signing up for new apps and sites to make sure you’re getting the best deals or find an item at a discount, make sure that you use stronger passwords and NOT.THE.SAME.ONE for everything. Also, if you haven’t updated the old passwords in awhile, sorry to say, it’s time to update. This is a hassle, but a small price to pay to save your personal banking information. If you have too many passwords, here’s how to use a password management tool to help. 

Other Quick Tips

  • No shopping site should ever ask you for your social security, date of birth, none of that.
  • If you are going to smaller businesses or sites you haven’t used, make sure they use a secure payment method, such as PayPal.
  • Make sure the site has secure shopping encryption (SSL) certification such as DigiCert, VeriSign, and other seals.
  • Monitor your account online to check for any suspicious activity

Read the latest security news and tips on TechCo

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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