CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — Holiday shopping will look a little different this year with more people choosing to make their purchases online from the comfort of home. While browsing on their laptops and smartphones, shoppers looking for the best deals of 2020 may unknowingly expose sensitive information to hackers and scammers.
The experts at InfoWest, Southern Utah’s “Internet People,” are offering several tips to stay safe while shopping online this holiday season.
Avoid fake sites.
Use only official retailer apps or websites. Unfamiliar sites advertising deeply discounted prices are most likely scams.
InfoWest marketing specialist Skyler Snarr recommends double-checking web addresses while shopping. Scam websites often try to impersonate a recognizable company by slightly altering the spelling of the URL.
Use a strong password.
Secure your online accounts with a strong password. If your password is compromised, thieves can use your account to make new purchases or have your shipments sent to their location.
Snarr suggests using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols to create a strong password. Avoid passwords that are easy to guess, like a family member’s name or birthdate. Most importantly, don’t use the same password across multiple accounts.
Look for the lock.
When shopping online, remember to look for a small lock icon next to the URL. This means the website you’re using has privacy protection installed.
If you don’t see a lock, another way to confirm the security of a website is by looking for “https” in the URL. Unsecure sites will display “http” in the web address. Never buy from a website without a secure server.
Ship to a secure location.
Porch pirates are out in full force around the holidays, Snarr said, so be sure to ship your gifts to a secure location. Having packages delivered to your workplace can help keep them safe if no one is home. For an extra layer of security, consider using a pickup location like the UPS Store or an Amazon Locker.
Watch your inbox.
Email scams peak during the holidays, Snarr said. Be selective of the emails you open and links you click. If a message looks questionable, report it as spam.
Scammers often target shoppers during the holidays by offering unbeatable discounts on popular items like electronics. If an offer sounds too good to be true, odds are that it is.
Rather than providing your credit card information to multiple websites, consider using a secure, reloadable prepaid debit card. Snarr also recommends mobile payment services like Google Pay or Apple Pay to add a second layer of protection while shopping online.
Don’t save credit card information.
Although convenient for future purchases, resist the urge to keep your credit card information saved to your online shopping accounts. Once a thief gains access to your account, they can use your credit card to have items sent anywhere.
Lock your device.
Keep your information secure and away from prying eyes. Protect your computers and mobile devices with a password or screen lock.
“Don’t make purchases on public WiFi,” Snarr said. “Information shared over public WiFi is not secure.”
Keep an eye on your accounts.
After finishing your holiday shopping, Snarr recommends enabling text alerts or push notifications for new charges on your credit card. Many banks allow customers to temporarily deactivate their cards online or through an app. Review your bank statements carefully for any charges that seem out of place.
Snarr said it’s also important to remember that legitimate retailers and payment services won’t ask for your Social Security number, so never give it out.
“Email scams and hacking are at an all-time high during the holidays, especially around Christmastime, because everyone is scrambling to get their shopping done,” he said. “Be smart and stay safe.”
Learn more about InfoWest’s products, services and community outreach on their website.
Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News.
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