Online shopping is efficient and fast. From clothes, to appliances, to groceries - anything you could possibly want to purchase is at your fingertips! You search what you are looking for, click, buy, and in a few days (well, maybe a bit longer with current shipping delays) your package shows up.
But with great reward can come risk...
Unfortunately, not all transactions go smoothly. The FTC received 4.8 million identity theft and fraud reports in 2020 alone. And that number is only getting higher.
Online scammers are smart. It can be easy to fall for some of the "too good to be true deals," but check out these tips on avoiding online scams.
- Shop from secure websites. How do you know it's secure? Often your browser will alert you if it's not. You can also tell by looking in your browser bar. If the website you are visiting starts with "https" it's secure. If it's "http" don't put enter any personal information.
- Shop from reputable retailers. Try to shop from retailers you know. Keep in mind, if you perform a search for a particular retailer, check the spelling to make sure you entered it correctly. One small typo could lead you to a fake site that looks like the real one. In no instance would "nordstrom.com" be "nordstroms.com."
- If it's too good to be true, it probably is. I recently saw a TikTok video where a teenager bought Balenciaga sneakers from a guy on Craigslist who claimed to be selling "Authentic Balenciaga sneakers" for $300. The teen bought them, the man shipped them, and to no surprise to anyone but the teenager, they were fake.
- Pay with a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards offer more fraud prevention and protection than debit cards. Using a debit card, money can be withdrawn from your account without your permission. With a credit card you can dispute fraudulent charges before you pay for them.
- Do not store your credit card information online. While storing your information online can offer convenience for future transactions, it also puts your information at risk. If a company has a data breach your credit card information could be exposed during that breach.
- Never use free public Wi-Fi for shopping. Free Wi-Fi is a hackers dream come true. It's easy for them to access your device and steal your personal information.
- Keep an eye out for email scams. Don't open emails from someone you don't know or a site you haven't visited. Another way they try to get you is by posing as your bank or another financial institution saying there is a problem with your account. If this occurs, always call your bank directly to follow up.
- Pick strong passwords. No, p@ssword doesn't count. A good password is one of your strongest defenses against a cyber attack. A strong password is like a padlock to cyber criminals. The more complex your password is the harder it is for a cyber criminal to break and steal your information.
- Check your bill regularly. Keep an eye out for fraudulent charges. If you see something suspicious call your financial institution immediately.
Protecting your personal information during online shopping sprees does require you to be somewhat vigilant, but taking these small precautions can greatly reduce your chances of falling victim to a cyber criminal.