Here comes another holiday shopping season coming at us like a runaway train. It seems like every year the merchants get the decorations and promotions out earlier. With the economy the way it is, who can blame them? But we must be extra careful this time of year, both in the mall parking lot AND online.
Most of us are familiar with “Black Friday” the traditional start of the shopping season. Since the explosive growth of the internet, online sales peak on “Cyber Monday” the Monday following the Thanksgiving weekend. Folks are trying to get a jump on their shopping this year by taking advantage of the convenience of online shopping.
We at WPSecurityLock.com want to wish you the best of the season and in that spirit, remind you to stay safe while shopping online.
Here are the basics you need to follow anytime you are online, but particularly when shopping.
Before you begin, make sure your computer is secure and your safety software is installed and up-to-date. This means your anti-virus program and other anti-malware software is functioning with current definitions. Run Windows Update first and make sure your patches are current. Finally, do your shopping from a secure network and NEVER use public wi-fi or a public computer for financial transactions. Now here are some guidelines to keep you and your wallet safe online this season.
Always use a secure connection which contains https:// in the address bar of your browser. This along with a key or closed padlock at the bottom right of your browser window indicates information being transmitted is secure. To be even more safe, you can double-click on the padlock and get information the site, the site's privacy information and technical details. For instance, the encryption on Best Buy's site indicates it has AES-256 bit encryption. If you see anything less than 128 bit, be very cautious. An extra note of caution here… Be careful when typing in a URL. Sometimes the hackers use misspellings of legitimate sites to trick folks into thinking they are on the correct site.
Use Strong Passwords
Use unique and strong passwords for each site. If you have visited here before you know the drill! Use long and complex passwords with at least 14 characters consisting of numbers, letters (both upper and lower case) and special characters. This is where your responsibility comes into play. Don't blame the hackers if your password is “123456” or your dog's name. Don't use the “Remember Me” check box or allow your browser to save your passwords either. Make each entry unique. If you have a challenge with managing your passwords, use an automated tool like Roboform or Lastpass to keep up with them.
Research The Reviews
Do your homework. Read reviews on the company and if you are not familiar with them, dig a little deeper and check out their reputation online. Look for the Cybertrust and Truste logos and the bottom of the home page which include security and certificate information. People buy from those they know, like and trust. Don't leave out the trust part and be aware of who you are dealing with.
Manage The Transaction
Stay in control with the “shopping cart” and check out process. Never use an ATM/Debit type card. Always use a credit card with limited liability to protect you in case of fraud. If you use PayPay, don't link to your checking account which could be cleaned out. Link your PayPal account to a credit card. Some companies offer the convenience of saving your credit card information. Don't do this! There are plenty of stories of company databases containing customers private information that have been lost or stolen. Protect yourself and your finances by not leaving your information behind on any site.
Know The Policies
Review the company's return and refund policies. Be clear on shipping costs and any restocking fees. If they are not clear, get on a chat or call the company to get the clarity you need. Hidden fees in freight and handling can get expensive.
Keep Good Records
Print out your receipts and emails confirming order numbers and keep them organized with your other financial records. You may need them for returns and exchanges and tax purposes.
Manage The Details
Get the shipping details and the tracking numbers. This time of year, it is important to track shipments, especially if you may not be home when a package arrives. With online tracking, it is easy to keep up with your purchase and arrange to be there when it arrives.
In Case Of Fraud
If you need to file a complaint about a fraudulent business practice contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Online, visit www.ftc.gov and click on “Consumer Protection.”
As we have said here many times “Pay Attention!” It is your responsibility to protect yourself online. Follow your common sense and get safe and stay safe this holiday season!
Get Secure! Stay Secure!