Online shopping has revolutionized the way we purchase everything from food and books to light bulbs and mattresses. But the convenience and variety of online shopping also requires us to put some of our personal information online to complete transactions. Here are six steps you can take for a safer online shopping experience.
1. SHOP AT REPUTABLE SITES.
Although all companies are potentially vulnerable to online data breaches, sticking to well-known e-commerce companies will generally make for a safer online shopping experience. If you decide to buy an item from a company you’re not familiar with, however, be careful. Before making a purchase, research the company. Read customer reviews, search for the company online, and examine the company’s privacy and return policies. Before you buy anything, make sure that a tiny padlock appears near the URL or status bar, and confirm that the URL begins with “https://” rather than “http://.” These clues indicate that the site you’re shopping on is protected with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption.
2. BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT UNSOLICITED EMAILS AND ADS.
When you see emails telling you about a flash sale for your favorite clothing brand, it can be tempting to quickly click on the link. But spammers and phishers can easily take advantage of your desire to score a good deal. By setting up fraudulent sites that look like the real thing, these cybercriminals try to trick you into giving them your personal information. When in doubt, go directly to the retailer’s website before starting your shopping.
3. DISABLE AUTOFILL.
Depending on how much online shopping you do, your browser’s autofill and autocomplete functions can save a huge amount of time. But cybercriminals can exploit weaknesses in autofill to gain access to more information than you intended to give. To protect your privacy, disable autofill on every browser you use for online shopping. For each transaction you make, take the extra time to manually type in details such as your name, credit card number, and shipping address.
4. ALWAYS SHOP ON SECURE WI-FI.
Shopping on a public or unsecured Wi-Fi network leaves your personal information – usernames, passwords, credit card number – seriously vulnerable to hackers. Ideally, use a trusted, password-protected Wi-Fi network to make all online purchases. And for extra protection from hackers, change your Wi-Fi password every few months.
5. CONSIDER GETTING A POST OFFICE BOX.
If your mailbox lacks a lock or you live in a building with a communal mail area, think about renting a local post office box. Thieves can quickly snatch packages that are left unattended, gaining access to any personal data that’s printed on the order statement inside. Using a separate address for deliveries can also shield your home address from online retailers.
6. INSTALL BROWSER UPDATES REGULARLY.
The tools you use to shop online – your computer, operating system, and browser – are vital to keeping your personal information safe. Make sure you regularly install security updates and patches for your operating system and browser. Even if you’ve already enabled automatic updates, it doesn't hurt to periodically check that you’re running the latest, most secure versions of your software programs.
Even if you’re a savvy shopper, it’s always better to be in the know when your online information may be compromised. Discover will help you by monitoring thousands of risky websites and alert you if they find your social security number. And it’s free for cardmembers who sign up. It won’t solve your online security issues, but it’s a good first step to putting you in the know. Terms apply. Learn more at Discover.