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Online Shopping & Cybersecurity: 10 Ways To Protect Yourself

The Internet has definitely made being a consumer a much easier thing to be these days. The age of online shopping has created a fast and simple way to purchase items or send them to family and friends without having to get dressed and step out of your home.

 

With the convenience it offers, it can be very tempting to go on a shopping spree and click “buy” on everything you see. However, while there are no pickpockets online, there can still be people who are out to take your personal and financial information. To help protect you from these unscrupulous individuals, we’ve prepared a list of tips to keep your sensitive info out of strangers’ hands.

 

  1. Watch out for email scams

Email scammers know no time and season to send out malware and viruses, often hiding behind a “gift” or a “special offer.” If you don’t know the person sending you the email or got mail from a site you haven’t visited, don’t open any link. Even if you do know the person sending and there’s no note about what the link is for, be extra extra cautious and ask the sender what the link is about before clicking it.

Some of the most popular email scams include those are supposedly from your bank saying there’s a problem with your account or that you need to update your information. If this happens, it’s smartest to call your bank and verify if such an email has been sent. Never enter your account details and respond to the email without verification from an authorized person.

 

  1. Say no to clicking links

It’s not just the sneaky email messages. Links also often come via a “prize won,” a special deal or any similar win. Watch out for bonuses and free gifts that require you to first click a link. If you’re really tempted by the lovely offer, Googling it will tell you if it’s legit or not. You can also find out if anybody else has had this offered to them.

 

  1. Only transact with reputable and secure websites

Don’t waste your time and energy shopping on online stores with questionable backgrounds. Make sure that the site is secure. The simplest way to do this is to check the URL and look for “https” at the beginning. A missing “s” means the website is not encrypted — thus, you are not protected. All legitimate online stores will have “https,” no exceptions.

 

  1. Update your security software

One of the easiest steps toward securing your sensitive information is by making sure your software is updated. Every now and then, companies release updates that you can download in just seconds or minutes containing improved security measures against cyberattacks. It will be a bit inconvenient to wait for the update to finish, but that’s nothing compared to the mountain of potential problems you’ll have if you don’t get it done. So, the next time your computer prompts you to do a software update, just go ahead and click it.

 

  1. Change or strengthen your password

This is, perhaps, one of the most repeated pieces of advice against cyberattacks. But, sadly, people often take this for granted. We cannot stress enough how important it is to have a unique password. If you use the same one for multiple sites, that’s okay. We understand how annoying it is to keep different passwords, but do take the time to change them periodically. To make your accounts virtually hack-proof, you can use password generators which can create random combinations.

 

  1. Don’t make your information public

As a rule, anything that you post on a public network is free for all. When you’re on a public Wi-Fi network, such as a coffee shop, library, restaurant, don’t use that network to log into your online banking account or Paypal. If your laptop or mobile device is directly connected to these sites, make sure that you have logged out of each of them before you enter any public Wi-Fi network.

 

  1. Be protective of your personal information

Never ever take photos of your IDs, tickets, forms and other documents that contain your information and then post it online. Sure, you’re excited about your newly-issued visa, but you’re only creating a massive security breach when you show it off to friends on social media.

 

  1. Be wary about shopping apps

Apps are an easy and very convenient way to shop, but they can also be goldmine for hackers to obtain private information. Make it a habit to question the legitimacy of the apps you are offered and download only from reputable sources like the Android Market or Apple App Store. If the app asks for your private information before you can access it, find something else. Also, do pay close attention to the permissions that come with click “I Agree.” Apps should not be asking for access to your contacts and notes. Be mindful of suspicious activity and check out app reviews first before downloading.

 

  1. Don’t use your debit card

Stick to using credit cards or payment services like Paypal when shoppping online. Debit cards are all right, in essence, but note that they are directly connected to your bank account, thus placing you at a much higher risk if your information is hacked. Credit cards offer less liability and greater protection in case of a cyberattack.

 

  1. Don’t give others an opportunity to hack you

Never give more information that what is needed. Some websites will ask you to make a wish list or fill out a form to complete your purchase. If it says “optional” on the field, then there’s no need to type your details in. The more information the Internet has about you, the most exposed you are to potential bad guys. Finally, don’t take the “privacy policy” for granted. Take the time to read the site’s terms and conditions and find out if they will be sharing your information, where and how, before agreeing to anything.

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