Do you have a plan for safe online shopping this holiday season?Nov. 21, 2022 / My Data Removal Staff
The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and if you’re like most shoppers, you probably plan to shop online for a lot of your gifts. We wanted to let you know about some online shopping trends we've noticed and give a few tips about how to stay safe online while buying gifts for everyone on your list. We want to help you protect your hard-earned cash from scammers and hackers that take advantage of this shopping season!
Keeping an eye on your bank statements
Your first line of defense against identity theft and fraud is to pay close attention to your financial records, like bank statements and credit card transactions. You can usually follow this data up-to-the-minute online. Flag any suspicious activity (like being charged for a purchase you didn't make) and contact the institution immediately.
Sharing more than you feel comfortable with
While you need to share data to make a purchase online, you should be wary of any retailer that is requesting more information than you feel comfortable sharing. Oftentimes, you don't need to fill out every field, and you shouldn't if you don't want to. If an online store requires you to share more information than you want, find another retailer on the internet – or in real life!
In addition, follow these steps to minimize how much real information you give away to retailers:
Use alias information
Many retailers don’t need your real information in order to sell you their product. Consider where you can use an alias in your upcoming shopping. To learn more, read our alias strategy article that goes over when to consider using an alias and how to do it.
Use virtual credit cards
There are companies that will provide you a virtual credit card. This allows you to make purchases online without linking it to your personal information, while also protecting you in the event your card is compromised. Learn more about virtual credit cards, including how and when to use them.
Used masked email addresses
It is possible to use a different email address that forwards to your primary inbox. You sign up for a masked email service, and they act as an intermediary, so that your real email address is not given out to retailers. Learn more about email masking here and when it makes sense to use this service.
Making a cybersecurity list, check it twice
This year, give yourself the gift of peace of mind by following these core cybersecurity behaviors:
- Protect each account with a unique, complex password that is at least 12 characters long – and use a password manager!
- Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) for any account that allows it.
- Turn on automatic software updates, or install updates as soon as they are available.
- Know how to identify phishing attempts and report phishing to your email provider or work.
Shopping on public Wi-Fi
- Public Wi-Fi and computers are convenient. However, public Wi-Fi is not secure – you shouldnever online shop or access important accounts (like banking) while connected to public Wi-Fi. If you must buy a few gifts onlinewhile away from your home or work network, use a VPN (virtual private network) or mobile hotspot.
- Last year, a record number of so-called "Grinch Bots" were recorded. These are automated programs that quickly buy up popular toys, sneakers, or other items and then resell the item for a huge mark-up to real people. Of course, buying supposedly new items on a resale market opens you up to an increased risk of fraud and counterfeit goods. The best way to defang Grinch Bots is to refuse to buy from them. Only buy items from vendors you are familiar with or can verify.
Knowing how much items should cost
- When shopping online, have a general sense of how much the items you want to buy should cost. Not only will that make you a comparison shopping extraordinaire, but you can also get a sense if an online store has prices that are too good to be true. In these cases, you might pay less, but then you might get an item that doesn't match the description, is a counterfeit, or you might pay and not get any item at all! A little bit of research can help protect you.