There’s little question that shopping online is one way to enjoy the holidays. You don’t have to drive to the mall, fight crowds or wait for stores to open.
The downside is that scam artists are always open for business. They are trying to steal your money and personal information 24/7.
How do you avoid swindlers? You have to be alert. Here are some key tips from Janet Alvarez of Wisebread, the personal finance site:
–If you’re using shopping apps, focus only on official retailer apps, as these are likelier to offer stronger security and consumer protections. Some free apps can contain malware, so focus on those from trusted retailers.
— If you opt to shop on websites, instead, focus on those with SSL encryption ( only those sites with the “s” at the end of https).
— Avoid shopping with debit cards online, as thieves are accessing funds directly from your bank account, which is arguably worse than merely hacking a credit card.
Also, credit cards generally offer stronger consumer protections – disputing credit card charges is generally more expedient than debit card charges.
— Use secure WiFi when shopping, and avoid shopping on WiFi from popular networks, such as WiFi provided by your local chain coffee shop.
— Try to put all your charges on a single card, if possible. This minimizes the likelihood that more than one card will be hacked, and also consolidates all your purchases onto a single statement, making any fraudulent charges easier to identify.
— Buy over the phone instead of online if you have any security doubts whatsoever. Though it may be more time-consuming, buying over the phone provides a modest extra layer of security when making credit card purchases.
Phone conversations are often recorded, and you don’t have to contend with questionable app or website security, nor WiFi breaches.
Want to take your cybersecurity one step further? Sign up for fraud alerts through your credit cards and order credit freezes. That way, if someone tries to scam you, you can get ahead of the game.
The great thing about fraud alerts is that your bank will text, email and often call you if they spot suspicious activity. I got some fraud alerts recently when someone stole my credit card number. I was able to quickly shut down my account.