Millions of Americans will seek holiday shopping deals online on Cyber Monday. But will they do it safely? We’ve all had plenty of experience buying things in stores–enough to know that it’s probably a bad idea to leave our wallets and purses sitting open in a shopping cart. Nobody would loudly announce their PIN number as they use a debit card.
But when many of us go online, caution quickly goes out the window. We start handing out our passwords willy-nilly and click on sites that show all the warning signs of being a scam.
Just because we’re shopping from home we shouldn’t let our guard down. Here are 10 things everybody should do to protect themselves on Cyber Monday, and for any other online purchases you make throughout the year.
1. Protect Your Computer. Never go online without current firewall, antivirus and antispyware software. Prevent neighbors and cyber spies from watching you online by securing your wireless connection with a strong password.
2. Choose Shopping Websites Wisely. Only shop with stores you know and trust. Start at the retailer’s main website, like “Sears.com,” instead of following links – it’s easier for scammers to pose as smaller internal sites than it is for them to take over the real thing. Only use sites with an ‘s’ at the beginning of the Web address – “https.” (It stands for safety.) Also look for a closed padlock symbol either by the Web address or in the bottom right corner of your browser.
3. Protect Your Personal Information. Use a separate username and password for each online account you create. Save them all in a safe place, like a password-secured lockbox like the ones reviewed by cnet.com here.
4. Use Your Own Computer. Don’t shop on shared computers or servers, like those at work or in libraries.
5. Beware Of Obvious Scams. Real retailers never send emails requesting your personal information. Nor do they request your Social Security number or bank account number.
6. Unbelievable Deals are Probably Scams. Nobody will sell you an iPad for $100. If you receive an email with that offer or a similarly impossible deal, do not click on the link. It’s probably a scam.
7. Use a Credit Card. Under federal law, shoppers can dispute charges if they don’t receive an item that was purchased with a credit card. If someone steals your credit card number and uses it to make purchases, you can dispute the unauthorized charges, and in most cases you won’t be charged anything using the card’s zero liability policy.
8. Or, Use PayPal. The site shields your credit card number from sellers, reducing the risk of fraud
9. Pay Attention to Your Accounts. At minimum, closely read your credit card statement every month for suspicious charges. Better yet, go online once a week to check your account.
10. Keep Your Confirmations. Many retailers email confirmation letters after online purchases. Keep them. And keep your confirmation numbers handy just in case any problems arise.
No one wants to start the New Year off with leftover holiday shopping debt. Download Credit.com’s free Holiday Spending Planner to keep your holiday spending in check.