The 2019 holiday shopping season may not “officially” begin until November 28th, but some retailers are already holding early Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Shoppers are eager to get started as well; data from Google shows that some retailers started seeing holiday web traffic as early as the first week of October.
Online shopping has made holiday gift-buying easier and more convenient than ever. Unfortunately, it’s also made it easier and more convenient for thieves to steal shoppers’ personal and financial information — and they’re gearing up for the holidays just like the rest of us.
Here are six tips to stay safe when shopping online.
1) Stick with known retailers
Cybercriminals may set up fake “online stores” whose only purpose is to steal payment card data and other personal information. Stick with retailers who are well-known or with whom you have done business with before. If you want to purchase something from a retailer you are not familiar with, do your homework first. Google the company’s name and look for its social media sites, customer reviews and complaints, and its record at the Better Business Bureau.
2) Make sure the retailer is using SSL encryption
SSL encryption protects your data as it is transmitted to the retailer. A site is encrypted if the URL begins with “https:” instead of “http:”, and your browser displays a padlock icon. SSL encryption is the absolute minimum of security for online retailers; don’t buy anything from a site that isn’t using it.
3) Use credit cards, not debit cards
There are two reasons to never, ever use a debit card to buy anything online, during the holidays or at any other time. Laws limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, but debit cards may not offer the same levels of protection. Additionally, because debit cards take funds directly from your bank account, fraudulent debits could clean you out, leaving you with no cash to pay your household bills.
4) Beware of email links & attachments
Phishing schemes tend to rise dramatically during the holiday shopping season. In addition to email, cybercriminals may try to phish you through social media messaging or SMS. Phishing messages may ask you to “confirm” your account or purchase information by clicking on a link, or they may send “receipts,” “shipping notices,” or “coupons” as attachments. Your best defense is to never click on any unsolicited links or attachments. Instead, type the retailer’s URL into your browser manually and log in that way.
5) Use a password manager with a strong master password
It’s just as important to protect your passwords as it is to protect your payment card and bank account information. Don’t depend on spreadsheets or sticky notes, or worse yet, use the same password for every site. A robust password manager, such as Keeper, allows you to secure all of your online accounts with strong, unique passwords and safely store your credit card data as well.
Instead of having to remember multiple passwords, a password manager requires you to remember only one, known as your master password. Because your master password protects all of your online data, it’s crucial that it is unique. One way to set a strong, unique master password is to think of a sentence that you can remember and use the first letter of each word (and the entirety of any numbers) to build your master password. For example, the sentence, “My parents were married in New York on October 7, 1987” would generate the master password MpwmiNYoO71987.
6) Get Keeper and stay safe while you shop online
Before you start your holiday shopping, protect your passwords with Keeper. Keeper generates high-strength random passwords for all your sites and apps and stores them for you in a personal, encrypted digital vault. You’ll never lose or forget another password again, and you’ll enjoy these additional features:
- Put more than just passwords in your encrypted digital vault; Keeper can protect your sensitive files, documents, photos, and videos, too! You can even securely scan and store your payment cards for faster checkout on websites and apps.
- Works on every mobile device and computer that you use and syncs instantly.
- Supports all two-factor authentication methods, including TOTP, SMS, biometrics, and U2F security keys (e.g. YubiKey).
- Protect the entire family with Keeper Family! Secure and easily share passwords, insurance forms, medical records, estate planning documents, tax documents, photos, videos, and more.
Keeper will be offering special Black Friday & Cyber Monday discounts. Get Keeper and get protected today!