Online shopping helps you stay safe during the pandemic, but it’s not without its own unique risks. As you click through to the checkout and type out your billing address, you’re sharing more of your personal information online. It’s crucial you safeguard this data to make sure you aren’t unintentionally exposing it to the wrong source.
Shop from Secured Website Only
Comparison shopping from your laptop is one of the biggest perks of hitting the digital shelves. You can check multiple retailer’s prices with just a few clicks of your mouse.
Just be careful of where you end up clicking. You may end up scrolling through multiple pages of an Internet search in your hunt for the absolute lowest price. The further you get from page one, the more likely you’ll come across unfamiliar brands. While they may not necessarily be a scam, these brands don’t offer the same security as a trusted name like Amazon or Walmart.
Double Check for a Lock
One way to check that you aren’t accidentally browsing a scam is by looking to the left of the URL. You should see a closed padlock and a web address that starts with HTTPS. These features indicate the site has SSL (secure socket layer) encryption protecting any information you share with its servers. If you don’t see these features, consider shopping elsewhere.
Read Private Policies
This next step is just an extension of the detective work you’re already doing. In addition to going through product descriptions, size guides, and customer reviews, you’re going to want to add privacy policies to your list of fundamental reading.
This law covers almost any online service you may use this holiday — whether it’s an online shopping app like Amazon or a financial institution’s website like MoneyKey.
If you’re dealing with a legitimate retailer or online lender, finding this policy will be easy. It’s usually at the bottom of the homepage listed with the other main navigational links.
Be a Stingy with your Data
Now is the time to be a Scrooge. You don’t want to be generous with your personal information, sharing it with any online service that asks. That’s because sometimes they have no legitimate need to know what they’re asking for — it depends on what you’re doing.
Take, for example, an online direct lender. They may need your Social Security Number (SSN) and banking information to assess your creditworthiness, so you should expect to share these details in an application.
The rules change with an online retailer. While they may need to know your credit card number and address to complete a sale, they never need to know your SSN or checking account number. If theyask these for things, they may be a scam hoping to defraud you of information.
Once a cybercriminal has your name, SSN, and banking info, they can open credit cards and take out direct payday loans in your name, so it’s crucial you keep these details safe at all times.
Bottom Line: The Less Retailers Know, the Better
All this talk about identity theft can put a damper on what’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. Luckily, you can reduce the risk of exposing your data to the wrong crowd by following these tips. Along with some online common sense, you’ll be able to shop safely.