Black Friday and Cyber Monday: 4 Ways to Protect Your Data When Shopping Online

Cyber Monday 2015 generated over $3 billion in sales, a 12% increase over previous years. This increase in online shopping isn’t without its pitfalls, however, as one in 86 transactions were targeted with some type of fraud.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, how should you ensure that your personal information is safe and secure when you shop online?

Be careful who you trust

Don’t give out your personal information to outlets you do not trust. Every time you are asked for your personal information while shopping online, ask yourself a few questions:

Do you trust the company or site you’re on? 

Before you trust an online store with your personal information, read up on what other shoppers have said about them. Search for complaints or scams that their website may have been involved in by typing “Company Name” + “Scam” or “Complaint” into your favorite search engine.

Is the store website encrypted? 

Don’t ever give out your personal information on websites that aren’t encrypted. Encrypted sites protect your information as it travels from your computer to their server. Look for an https at the beginning of their web address. This shouldn’t just be on the login page, so check every page you visit.

Does the store have a privacy policy? 

Online retailers should have a clear privacy policy that tells you how they protect your personal information, and secure your credit card information.

Did you download the store app you’re shopping on from a legitimate link? 

When using apps, always use the link provided by the brand on their own website to download their app. According to New York Times, more and more “fake” apps are making their way onto app stores, just in time to fool shoppers for the holiday season. Fake apps are not only hoping to sell you lower quality products, they could also use your credit card information in dubious ways.

Remember, not all WiFi is created equal

Every restaurant, mall and office seems to have WiFi, and often these networks are open to all users. We’ve all logged into an unprotected WiFi network once or twice, but few people know how much more vulnerable you are when transmitting data over a wireless connection (and not just an unprotected one). Limit your buying activity to password secured connections you trust, such as your home, and never log in to your banking app or transmit credit card information over an unsecured public network.

Secure your devices and accounts

Where once you only had to ensure your computer had the latest available anti-virus software, now you have to also worry about securing phones and tablets. Most security software is set to update automatically, so opt-in for that option on the software you choose. But also set your operating system and browser to update automatically, as these updates can often include important updates required to keep your device secure from the latest threats.

Not only should your devices be updated, remember to choose smart passwords for all accounts. Using a password management service such as LastPass can allow you to create hard-to-crack passwords without having to worry about remembering them. Choose passwords with a mix of letters, numbers and special characters, and keep the length between 10 to 14 characters.

Consider a Virtual Credit Card Number

Some card issuers provider users with an alternate number that they can use when they shop online. The disposable number is still linked to your account, and your purchases do appear on your card statement, but since it can only be used for a limited time, or with a limited number of merchants, a scammer who comes across it at a later date cannot use it. You will need to check if your credit card issuing bank provides a disposable number, but it’s worth checking it out before the holiday shopping starts.

Your safety is in your own hands, so remember to stay safe while shopping online by following these suggestions. Happy holidays!