In October, USAToday reported that 81% of consumers said they will do 50% of their holiday shopping online this year. Chances are, you’re one of them. This time of year, identity theft, scams, frauds, and malware infections target shoppers more than ever. Carter Bank & Trust has always prioritized leading technology to keep our customers’ personal information safe, but you can also take steps to protect yourself while shopping online this season.
Create and Maintain Your Online Shopping Accounts Safely
Most online retailers give you the option to checkout as a guest or set up an account. While there are risks to both, we have a few tips to stay safe.
Establish a strong password. Always use this best practice: more than 10 total characters consisting of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters to create a strong password.
Use different passwords on each of your online accounts. Retailers experience more data breaches every holiday season. That means your credentials could be leaked. If you set up different passwords between your shopping accounts, there are fewer opportunities for your information to be exploited. If you have trouble remembering all your unique passwords, consider using a pattern for your password or a password manager.
Check out as a guest to avoid saving payment information online. We know it’s inconvenient to have to enter your credit card information every time you try to make a purchase, but it could save you from a data breach. If you don’t plan to make recurring purchases at a retailer, there’s no need to set up an account.
Use one card online or pay through a secure online mechanism. By using only one card online you’re limiting the damage that can happen if malicious fraudsters gain that information. The more cards you use online, the more access they have to your money.
Shop with Trusted Online Retailers
Use well-known online retailers with a good reputation. Anyone can advertise their products on Facebook, but does that make them a reputable place to buy from? If you’re buying from an online retailer you’ve never worked with before, verify that they have good contact information listed on their site in case of an issue, and check with the Better Business Bureau or the FTC if you have questions or concerns.
Look for the lock symbol at the top of your browser or “https” in your URL bar. These mean that your communications with the website are encrypted and safe from prying eyes. Browsers like Google Chrome will notify you if you’re about to access a site that does not have this protection for users.
Don’t log in to your accounts on public Wi-Fi or devices. Public Wi-Fi can make all of your personal information vulnerable to cybercriminals hacking into the network. Public, shared devices, such as kiosks or library computers, can be infected with malware that will steal your information.
Pay Close Attention to Email Confirmations and Tracking Information
Be careful which links you click in your emails. Cybercriminals count on the fact that you’ll be checking your email to confirm a purchase or track your package. Pay attention to the email address you’re receiving your emails from and think before your click! Instead of clicking on a link in the email, visit the shipping company’s website to enter your tracking number. You can also login to the company you purchased from to track your purchase there.
Work Closely With Your Bank
If you plan to make a large purchase on your card, it’s always a good idea to contact your bank to let them know ahead of time. In addition, if you think that your information is at risk or you may be a victim of identity theft, contact Customer Care right away.