It seems like the holiday shopping season starts earlier and earlier each year. While this may not mean anything for last-minute procrastinators, it can actually be great news for people hunting bargains. Of course, in all of the excitement, it can be easy to let your guard down when shopping online, but beware: criminals don’t take the holidays off. In fact, online fraud and identity theft actually spike during the holidays.
Thankfully, you can protect yourself and your bank account by taking a few simple steps. Below are some online shopping security tips to help you save big while also staying protected:
1. Know The Site You’re Shopping With
It’s fairly easy to create a website these days, and scammers are well aware of the potential this holds for stealing shoppers’ financial data. Many cybercriminals will create websites that are built to look and function exactly like the websites of well-known brands, but these sites are actually used to fool shoppers into providing their credit and debit card numbers.
To avoid falling for these fraudulent sites, always double-check the URL in the address bar of your browser. Some scammers will create website addresses that look similar to known brands, but they will change letters around, a technique known as spoofing. An “I” may become an “l” or an “O” may become a “0”. If you aren’t paying attention, it can be easy to overlook these small differences, and you may not realize that you’ve been scammed until you notice discrepancies with your bank account.
2. Read Product Reviews
Before placing any type of online order, take a moment to read some product reviews or reviews of the seller. These reviews can give you insight into the legitimacy of a purchase. You shouldn’t necessarily be dissuaded by negative reviews, but if you notice a number of reviews that say that products never arrived after being charged or that the seller stopped responding to contact after a credit card was charged, these can be red flags that mean you should look elsewhere to make a purchase.
Product reviews can also help to ensure you receive the product as it is described. If you notice product reviews that claim the products shoppers received were not the products that were advertised, this could be a sign that a scammer is simply charging for products that don’t exist. Selling used items as new is also a common problem on the Internet, so it would be a good idea to pay attention to reviews for signs that a scammer could be using these tactics as well.
3. Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication is a security process by which account access is only granted when two separate verification steps are taken. These two steps are usually completely isolated from one another, and they often require that the person attempting to access an account have some type of legitimate and verifiable means to do so.
In many cases, two-factor authentication is completed by logging into an online account using a strong password. Then, the next step is that a one-time-use code is sent via SMS or email to the phone number or email address listed on the account. Without both the password and the one-time-use code, the account cannot be accessed.
Use Common Sense
At the end of the day, staying safe online during the holidays really comes down to using common sense and being aware of who you’re doing business with. It can be easy to get swept up in the rush of finding a good deal, but don’t let low prices keep you from being realistic.