The holiday season has arrived and many of you are looking online for those perfect gifts. As your bank, we want to make sure you know how to shop safely online. Here’s some information about the risks of shopping online and how to make your holiday purchases safely.
Fake Online Stores
While many online stores are legitimate, there are some fake websites set up by cyber criminals. According to SANS, criminals create these fake websites by replicating the look of real sites or using the names of well-known stores or brands. They then use these fraudulent websites to prey on people who are looking for the best deal possible. When you search online for the absolute lowest prices, you may find yourself directed to one of these fake websites. When selecting a website to make a purchase, be wary of websites advertising prices dramatically cheaper than anywhere else or offering products that are sold out nationwide. The reason their products are so cheap or available is because what you will receive is not legitimate, may be counterfeit or stolen, or may never even be delivered. Protect yourself by doing the following:
- When possible, purchase from websites that you already know, trust, and have done business with previously.
- Verify the website has a legitimate mailing address and a phone number for sales or support-related questions. If the site looks suspicious, call and speak to a human. If you can't reach someone to talk to, this is the first big sign you are dealing with a fake website.
- Look for obvious warning signs, like deals that are too good to be true or poor grammar and spelling.
- Be very suspicious if a website appears to be an exact replica of a well-known website you have used in the past, but its domain name or the name of the store is slightly different. For example, you may be used to shopping online at Amazon, whose website is https://www.amazon.com. But be very suspicious if you find yourself at websites pretending to be Amazon, such as http://store-amazoncom.com.
- Type the store's name or URL into a search engine and see what other people have said about the website in the past. Look for terms like "fraud", "scam", "never again", or "fake". A lack of reviews can also be a sign indicating that the website is very new and might not be trustworthy.
- Before purchasing any items, make sure your connection to the website is encrypted. Most browsers show a connection is encrypted by having a lock and/or the letters HTTPS in green right before the website's name.
Remember, just because the site looks professional does not mean it's legitimate. If you aren't comfortable with the website, don't use it. Instead, find a well-known website you can trust or have safely used in the past. You may not find that absolutely amazing deal, but you are much more likely to end up with a legitimate product and avoid having your personal and financial data stolen.
Your Computer, Mobile Device, & Wi-Fi
You want to ensure your mobile device, computer, and online account stays secure. Here are some ways you can protect your device from being infected and keeping your information safe:
- Always install the latest updates and run up-to-date anti-virus software.
- Use strong passwords when shopping and especially when banking online. When creating new accounts on shopping websites, make sure to use a different password for each site.
- Download store specific apps and avoid the website altogether. Stores like Amazon, Best Buy, Target, etc. have user-friendly apps that make it easy to search, shop, and access your cart.
- Be aware of your Internet connection and be wary when entering your card information if using an unsecured public Wi-Fi connection.
- Only shop on trusted computers. Using public computers puts you and your information at risk. If you do use a public computer, always log out before you leave and make sure no one can see your card number as you make your purchase.
- Be cautious when making purchases on devices that are used by kids. Kids are curious and interactive with technology; as a result, they are more likely to infect a device without knowing it. If possible, use a separate computer or tablet for online transactions such as online banking and shopping to reduce the chance of it becoming infected.
Your Payment Card
When shopping online with a credit or debit card, here are some things to consider.
- Regularly review your statements to identify suspicious charges, especially after using your card to make multiple online purchases or using a new site.
- Take advantage of transaction alerts for your card. Some credit cards allow you to sign up and receive notifications by email or text message every time your card is charged or a payment exceeds a set amount.
- If possible, consider designating a credit card just for online shopping so if it is compromised, it will not impact any of your other payment activities such as recurring purchases.
- If you believe your card has been compromised, call your card company right away. This is also why you may want to use credit cards for all online purchases and keep your debit cards reserved for only trusted vendors. Debit cards take money directly from your bank account, so if fraud has been committed, it can be more difficult to get your money back.
- Consider using payment options that protect your information like gift cards, mobile wallets, or well-known payment services, such as PayPal, which do not require you to disclose your credit card number to the vendor.
As always, if you ever have questions or concerns, don't hesitate to contact your banker. Happy shopping!
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