The holidays are fast approaching, and that means the holiday shopping season is here! This year there are expected to be more online shoppers than ever due to the continued risk of COVID-19. The CDC has recently announced their holiday safety recommendations, and they’re encouraging all Black Friday shoppers to avoid brick and mortar stores and shop from home.
While shopping from home certainly reduces the risk of contracting COVID-19, it’s not without its challenges and obstacles. Online shopping also invites the risk of scammers and cybercriminals. All is not lost, however. With a few tips, you can be sure you’re remaining safe with your online shopping this season.
- First and foremost, before doing anything online, whether it be shopping or simply reading your email, check the strength of your passwords. Passwords are the easiest yet best way to add security to your online activities. Passwords should be between 8-10 characters at minimum, 3 out of 4 types (uppercase, lowercase, numbers, symbols), not your name and unique for each website. If you have trouble remembering multiple passwords, consider using a password manager.
- Ensure that your connection is secure. Never do anything online that you’d like to be private (shopping, banking, etc.) from an open connection or public WIFI.
- Know who you’re shopping with. Stick with reputable companies while shopping online for added security. Remember that not all items on big retail sites like Amazon or Walmart are necessarily being sold from those companies. If you want to shop from a smaller site, do your research before ordering. Ask friends or search online for company reviews.
- Check the full web address of the website you’re shopping on. Ensure that it starts with https, not just HTTP. The “s” means the site is secure.
- Always be cautious when clicking on links in your email. Email phishing is, without a doubt, the most popular form of cybercrime in the world. Even if the email looks legitimate, it might be a phishing scam. A good habit to practice is going directly to the website.
- We all want to get the best deals possible, especially during the holidays. However, a good rule of thumb online is if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be very cautious of incredible offers from companies you’ve never heard of. Again, do your research before purchasing anything.
- Some places, such as Costco or Sam’s Club, may offer a discounted price on gift cards. However, when purchasing gift cards online, you should always try and buy directly from the company. Avoid places like eBay or gift card exchanges.
- If possible, pay with a service like PayPal or use a credit card. This gives an additional layer of protection, and you’re not potentially giving access to your bank account with a debit card.
The holidays can be stressful enough, even without the threat of COVID-19 still lingering. But shopping for your loved ones shouldn’t be. With these few tips, we might be able to make the holiday shopping season just a little easier.