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9 Tips to Keep Your Money Safe During Online Holiday Shopping (and Always)

We’re nearing the holiday shopping season and each year consumers lose billions of dollars from stolen payment card information.

Cybercriminals are preparing for this year’s online shopping frenzy, so we want you to be prepared as well with these tips to keeping your hard-earned money safe this holiday season.

1. Use a Credit Card, Not a Debit Card

If you’re the victim of fraud or theft with a debit card, the money is siphoned out of your account immediately.

Rules around credit cards limit your liability for fraud or unauthorized use. When fraud occurs, you can retrieve your losses by disputing the charges with your credit card provider.

2. Online Payment Services

If allowed, use intermediary payment services like Google Pay or PayPal to pay for purchases. These payment services make it so merchants are not directly given your credit card information.

3. Don’t Store Your Card Information on a Website

When a website asks if it should “remember” your payment card information, the correct answer is “no.” This feature is obviously convenient, but it leaves you vulnerable if someone gains access to your account.

The last thing you want is someone to access your account and “one-click” shop using your stored card information.

4. Boost Anti-Fraud Measures and Monitor Account Activity

Many credit card issuers allow you to sign up for transaction alerts that notify you when a purchase has been made over a set amount or in a location where you aren’t primarily. Go online or contact your issuer to set these up ahead of your holiday shopping.

Regularly log in to your account online to keep tabs on your account activity. If you notice anything questionable, report it right away.

5. Look for http “s” Before Purchasing

Not all sites are safe and secure. Ensure the site you are visiting is secure before purchasing by looking for the “https://” in the browser’s address bar. The “s” stands for secure and should appear on all web pages that require disclosing financial information.

6. Read the Reviews

Before you click “confirm purchase,” take the time to consider the reviews of a product to ensure the merchant and the merchandise are legitimate. Also, note any options available if a product is not what’s promised. Scammers set up pages with pictures of a genuine product but will send something of far more inferior quality.

7. Be Wary of Emails or Texts Requesting Information

More and more attackers are trying to steal private information by sending emails or texts requesting that you confirm a purchase or account information. Legitimate businesses will not solicit sensitive information this way.

As a general rule, do not provide sensitive information through email or text and never click on links you may receive out of the blue.

8. Be Careful of Faked Websites

Scammers set up fake URLs that are just a letter or two off from popular sites. Users who normally type quickly and rely heavily on autocorrect are especially prone to finding these fraudulent sites.

If you are unsure how to spell the name of a website, look for it by using a reputable search engine and double check the URL to make sure you are in the right place.

9. Assume Public Wi-Fi Is Not Secure

Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, libraries, airports, and other public places are convenient, but often not secure. Online shoppers don’t realize that cyber thieves can grab their wireless data through Wi-Fi hotspots, because the majority of these places don’t encrypt the information you transmit. If a network doesn’t require a password, it’s safe to assume it is not secure.

Bottom Line

Take extra precautions while shopping this holiday season. Cybercriminals know we’re conducting more business online than ever and looking for ways to target unsuspecting consumers. For more tips, visit the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s Shopping Safely Online tip sheet.