If you are like more than half of holiday shoppers, you are going do so at least some, if not all, of your shopping online this year. But with the onslaught of holiday deals and discounts also comes increased danger of data theft, hacking, phishing, and other online crimes that would give the Grinch a run for his money.
Unlike the Grinch, though, most cybercriminals hearts won’t grow three sizes and spur them to return everything that that have stolen. Therefore, if you don’t want to spend the holiday season undoing what the thieves have done, make sure you do these nine things to “Grinch-Proof” your online shopping.
1. Use Security Software
Installing maximum internet security will help keep your computer and mobile devices safe from viruses, ransomware, spyware, phishing messages, and more, both during and after the holiday season. Ideally, your security software will keep you safe across all of your devices, ensuring that transactions take place over secure connections and blocking harmful websites and software that will steal your personal information.
2. Download Apps From Trusted Sources
Online shopping via mobile apps is expected to increase by nearly 60 percent this year. Before you start shopping from your phone, though, be sure that you are using authentic apps. Only download apps from trusted sources, such as approved app marketplaces like Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Do your homework before you download, too. Check reviews, look for the developer’s contact information, and for red flags in the description like poor grammar or spelling. Be sure you know which permissions the app is requesting as well; any app that stores credit card info or passwords, requests unnecessary permissions (such as requests to access your text services or administrative controls) is suspicious and should be avoided.
3. Be Aware of Phishing Scams
Phishing scams run rampant during the holiday season, and in the rush to grab great deals, you might inadvertently fall into a trap. Learn the signs of a phishing email or message, and delete anything suspicious without opening. Some things to watch for? Weird links in an email, poor spelling and grammar, suspicious “from” addresses, and requests for personal information like usernames, passwords, and account numbers.
4. Use Credit Cards Only
When shopping online, avoid using debit cards that are tied to your checking or savings accounts, and instead use credit cards. A thief can easily clean out your checking account in a matter of minutes if he or she gets access to your debit card. Most banks will refund the money if the investigation shows fraud, but it could take weeks or months for that to happen. Credit cards offer a higher degree of fraud protection, and you won’t be liable for fraudulent purchases made on your account.
5. Set Up Alerts on Your Cards
Speaking of cards, set up alerts so that you receive an email or text every time your card is used for a purchase. You will instantly know if someone does get access to your card, and be able to contact your bank to stop the transaction.
6. Use Two-Factor Authentication When Available
If a website or your bank offers two-factor authentication, use it. While it requires an extra step, your transaction is made more secure — and any hackers who might be lurking around trying to access your account will be less successful.
7. Change All Passwords
Changing your passwords on a regular basis is a smart security move in general, but it’s also a good idea to change your passwords before you start your holiday shopping. Username and password combinations are available to criminals thanks to previous breaches, and if a criminal successfully access one of your accounts, it’s likely that he or she will try that combination on other sites to see what they can access. Resetting your passwords to random combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols before you shop can add another layer of protection to your accounts.
8. Use Secure Networks for Shopping
If you are planning to shop using your mobile device, avoid the temptation to hit “buy” while you are on a public Wi-Fi network. Wait until you get home and can use a secure Wi-Fi connection, or log in to a VPN that is password protected. Criminals often spy on public Wi-Fi, and can easily capture your data.
9. Only Shop on Secure, Encrypted Websites
Finally, when shopping online be sure to shop only on websites that are secure and encrypted. Look for “https” in the beginning of the address. Most reputable websites will also provide details about security when you check out.
Nothing can dampen holiday cheer like data theft, so take the time to protect your information before you start shopping, and keep the Grinch from stealing everything, including your roast beast.