How to Stay Safe When Shopping Online

Source: iStock

Purchasing items online is a quick and convenient way to acquire items on your shopping list. However, if you’re not careful, you could be scammed out of your hard-earned cash. Here are four tips for making sure that you stay safe while shopping online.


1. Watch your email

It’s exciting to be notified about a great new deal, but those deal emails could contain some very bad news. It’s possible to get an email that looks like it’s from a legitimate retailer that turns out to be a fake message from cyber thieves hoping to lure you into their trap. Phishing is nothing new, but scammers still rely on this technique to capture your personal financial information. If you notice that an email looks strange, don’t click on the links.

You should be leery if the email contains several misspellings or if there is no subject line. Another red flag is if the email contains a request for sensitive account information such as a password or credit card number. Your best bet is to go directly to the store’s website instead of clicking on short cuts. If you happen to receive a phishing email, the Federal Trade Commission recommends forwarding the email to spam@uce.gov or reportphishing@antiphising.org as well as the organization that was impersonated in the email.


2. Guard your credit card number

Although credit cards have protections in place that limit your liability for unauthorized charges, it’s still important to protect your credit card number. One way to do this is to use a temporary number just for online purchases. Bank of America and Citibank are two banks that offer their customers temporary numbers. If your bank doesn’t offer temporary credit card numbers, you still have some options. For example, MaskMe is a free service that allows you to protect your sensitive information. In addition to masked credit card numbers, users can obtain private email addresses and phone numbers.

3. Be careful about where you shop

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

This advice applies whether you’re shopping on the go or in the privacy of your home. You don’t want to conduct your online shopping at a crowded coffee house where strangers can “shoulder surf” and possibly get a peek at your personal information. Even if you choose to stay home, you’ll need to pay attention to the websites you visit. It’s best to stick with trusted retailers. While this may not prevent you from becoming a victim, it could slightly reduce your chances of being scammed by a fly-by-night business.


4. Review credit card and bank statements

Many consumers find out too late their personal information was compromised because they don’t regularly check their credit card and bank statements. Make a habit of reviewing all of your transactions. Instead of waiting until you get your final statement at the end of the month, check your statements online. This way if something looks fishy, you can address the problem as soon as possible. This is also a good idea because if fraudulent purchases were made with your debit card, you have less time to report the activity before you’ll be held liable for most of the amount.


Bonus tip

Mobile shopping is another popular way to shop. However, you’ll need to exercise the same precautions as when you’re shopping from your home computer. One way to stay secure when shopping with your mobile phone is to make use of mobile security apps. One app to consider is Lookout mobile security, which offers protection against spyware and malware. It also helps track lost or stolen phones.

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