Who doesn’t love the convenience of online shopping? There’s no need to drive to a crowded mall, no need to get stopped by kiosk salesmen wanting to pitch their products, no need to wait in line to check out.
But, online shopping can pose some risks if you don’t take the appropriate precautions. In 2018 alone, the FBI reported its Internet Crime Complaint Center received more than 350,000 complaints, averaging more than 900 a day! Among the most frequently reported complaints were non-payment/non-delivery scams, extortion and personal data breaches.
And, the threats don’t just end there. Personal data breaches can mean your most confidential information is stolen — whether it’s your social security number, financial data or health records. Take a look at some of the different types of identity theft, tips on what to do if you are a victim and how you can safeguard against that crime in our blog here.
Despite these risks, shoppers aren’t exactly willing to go offline. In fact, e-commerce has grown in the last decade, most recently increasing by 4.2% from the first quarter of this year to the second quarter, according to the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce. And, it’s only projected to go up from there.
This National Cybersecurity Month, our Kinetic by Windstream team wants to give you and your family all the ways to stay safe when using your Kinetic Internet — and that includes online shopping safety tips!
1. Look for Reputable Retailers
Make sure you’re buying from the intended retailer. Look out for variations in a website, such as one that uses a .net versus a .com or misspellings in the URL, particularly when you got to the site through a search engine.
You’ll want to look for these variations or typos if you get emails that appear to be from trusted retailers, too. It may be a phishing attempt, especially if the email wants you to reset your password and you did not initiate that. Retailers will not need your personal information, like your social security number, but they may want a birthdate on file for personalized newsletters or specials.
If you’re browsing through sites like Amazon, eBay or Etsy, read through the product description, refund and return policies, and seller details, including reviews. If you read through pertinent reviews, they may tell you whether a seller did not fulfill an order or wouldn’t issue a refund for any deficiencies. Reviews can also be doctored, though, so if you aren’t sure if a retailer is legitimate, try looking it up with trusted sources, such as the Better Business Bureau. And, be wary of deals that seem too good to be true: that iPhone 11 isn’t likely going to go for $150!
Know, too, that many larger retailers have mobile apps, offering one of the safest ways to purchase online rather than going to the website.
2. Check the Reputable Retailers’ Website Security
How do you know the retailers’ website is secure? Simply, look for a padlock to the left of the URL or for the “S” after “http.” The padlock should be on the browser window, not on the website itself, and the “S” on “https” signifies encryption between a web server and a browser.
3. Avoid Public Wi-Fi and Public Computers
Public wireless networks are handy. We won’t have to use our own, perhaps limited, cellular data, and where else are we supposed to turn when we’re going to be somewhere for awhile? It’s best to stick to trusted public wireless networks, such as “Starbucks Guest.” If you aren’t sure, ask an employee.
But, even on trusted public wireless networks, do not give out sensitive information, including your debit or credit card number, on public computers or public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi covers everything from the one at your favorite coffee shop, wireless services at the airport and even a password-protected network at a hotel.
That deal you’re trying to snag can likely wait until you get home. Or, if it really can’t wait, use a hotspot on your mobile phone or a virtual private network.
4. Up Your Password Game
Depending on how often you shop online, you may be creating an account so you won’t have to fish out your credit or debit card and enter that 16-digit code every single time. If so — and we can’t stress it enough — choose a strong password! Need a little more guidance on creating a good password? Read our blog about it here.
Once you’ve bought your items, don’t forget to log out of the account!
For more peace of mind, keep an eye on your financial statements to check the amount of your transactions and any fraudulent activities. Be sure to regularly scan your devices — including those that you use for online shopping — for malware and viruses, and keep those software programs up to date!
Looking for other ways you can stay safe while shopping online? Go with an internet service, like Kinetic Internet, that can not only guarantee speed and reliability, but safety, too.