As the holiday season approaches many of us will head to our computer instead of the mall to shop for gifts. The convenience of shopping online to avoid the holiday hassle simply cannot be beat. But is it truly safe? Stories of security breaches still top the news headlines every week putting us all on edge. Although nothing is completely foolproof there are steps you can take to protect yourself and shop online with confidence.
Be an educated shopper
Don’t just use the internet to shop. Take time to research the sites you are buying from especially if you have not purchased from them before. Web hackers have gotten rather good at making fake sites appear legitimate. Look for contact information on the site itself and do a bit of research on customer reviews. And be sure to check the address that appears in your web browser is valid before you provide any personal information.
We found this great tool for tips on verifying the validity of a website at GetNetWise.
Look for security signs
Be sure to check for signs that the site is secure before you enter your personal and financial details. The website URL should begin with shttp or https which indicates that the purchase data will be secured using encryption. Another indicator to look for is a closed yellow padlock icon in your web browser’s address bar. If you don’t see either of these you may want to find another place to shop. And a good rule to follow if you are using a public network is to never use unsecured wireless networks to make an online purchase.
Credit cards or debit cards?
Debit cards are another truly convenient tool for consumers. But they should be a last choice option for two reasons. First, debit cards do not have a monetary limit so your bank account could get wiped out if your data is stolen or compromised. And if you have automatic overdraft in place things could get ugly fast. Second, debit cards do not offer the same buyer protections that most credit cards offer. In the event that your purchase isn’t delivered or not what was ordered a credit card will generally allow a credit on the purchase. And credit cards don’t hold you responsible for charges made on a stolen or lost card.
Another great resource for tips and information about safe online shopping is StaySafeOnline. They offer a host of educational materials to help the online shopper make smart choices and safe purchases. It’s holiday shopping time. And yes, shopping online can be safe, convenient and a lot of fun.
How much of your holiday shopping will you do online? Let us know in the comments below.