According to the National Retail Federation, more than 151 million people shopped in stores and online during Thanksgiving weekend, and more than 100 million people shopped online during the Cyber Monday sales. Many large retailers such as Walmart and Amazon, even began their Cyber Monday sales a day early, following the most shopped day of the year, Black Friday.
Given the convenience of online shopping, it’s no surprise that more and more people are heading to the web instead of the mall to purchase gifts. However, with so many users now sharing credit card information online, it’s important to be smart while shopping. Here are a few online tips to help users have a safe online shopping experience:
1. Update security software.
No matter what device you use, whether a PC, Mac, tablet, or mobile phone, make sure it has the latest security software, operating system, and apps. This is a good first layer of defense that should be followed year-round. If you have Xfinity Internet, visit https://constantguard.xfinity.com for the latest on security software and services.
2. Use secure sites.
Before you type in sensitive information online, check to make sure it is a “secure” site. Secure sites typically have a closed padlock in the status bar, and the URL will start with HTTPS:// with an “S”, not just HTTP://.
3. Create strong passwords.
Password theft is one of the most common ways hackers can ruin your holiday season. Avoid easy-to-crack passwords by using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Don’t use items from your everyday life like your name, street address, or birthday. Also, stay away from passwords like “password” or “123456”, and don’t use the same password for multiple sites.
4. Use a credit card.
Dedicate one credit card for all of your online shopping needs so it is easy to monitor and manage. Credit cards are generally the safest option because they aren’t directly connected to your bank account, and they can be cut off immediately. Never use a debit card.
5. Keep a record.
Save records of your online purchases, including the product description, price, online receipt, and emails. Once you receive your credit card statements, make sure they match. If there is a discrepancy, call your bank, and report it immediately.
6. Shop at home.
A secure Internet network connection, like in most homes or workplaces, is ideal for online shopping, rather than a coffee shop or on the go where you might expose sensitive information to hackers. Also, as a general rule, avoid using public computers to do any of your online shopping.
7. Be wary of spam.
During the holidays, your inbox can often be flooded with junk emails with offers for large discounts. Always be cautious of any emails you receive from unknown recipients or offers that seem too good to be true.
8. Protect your information.
Be careful with the information you give out this holiday season. Retailers and others (both legit and fake) are eager to learn about you and your shopping habits in order to better target you as a customer. While there could be perks in the form of discounts, ads, or coupons, remember the more they know, the easier it is to steal your identity. Also, NEVER email your credit card information or send it via social media.
9. Log out of and turn off.
After making a purchase, remember to log off of the retailer’s site. Also, turn off your computer or device when you are finished shopping. This is particularly important if you are using a shared computer or device with others in your home.
10. Research the retailer.
If it’s not a big name brand, make sure the vendor is legit before purchasing an item. Check for credentials like a physical address and online reviews.