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4 Ways to Stay Safe while Shopping Online this Holiday Season

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There’s no doubt that e-commerce and online shopping is booming. The busiest shopping days of the season, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, generate over a billion dollars in online sales daily. That’s a lot of digital dollars floating around! In the offline world, FedEx expects to ship 280 million packages this holiday season, thanks mainly to package deliveries from online shopping.

In the UK, online holiday shopping is already the new norm. Over half of UK residents plan to buy the majority of their gifts online, and 90% will do at least some online shopping. In the US, 52% of consumers will buy at least one gift online this holiday season according to the National Retail Federation.

While consumers are getting more and more comfortable shopping online, scammers and fraudsters are still lurking the web, and they’re getting more sophisticated as well. If you will be joining the growing ranks of consumers shopping online this gift giving season, there are 4 important tips to keep in mind in order to stay safe and merry:

Shop on sites you trust and read reviews: If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are a lot of sites that claim to have high-end merchandise at bargain basement prices. Some of them may be legit, but a lot are anything but. Stick with the retailers you know, or if there’s a deal you simply can’t pass up from a site you’ve never heard of, do some research. That goes double for online auctions – read the reviews and feedback for sellers, and always make sure to stay within the auction site’s guidelines. Most reputable sites offer buyer protection, but only if you follow their rules. Don’t let a seller convince you otherwise.

Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date: Before you shop online make sure your computer is protected with the most recent version of your anti-virus software. Shipping problems and credit card fraud aren’t the only concerns when it comes to online shopping. Some sites are filled with malware and spamware that could infect your computer before you even come close to completing your purchase. According to Qualys, an information security leader, more than half of computers and internet browsers contain vulnerabilities that cyber-criminals can use to their advantage. Make sure you are using the latest version of your preferred browser as well, it will contain important security updates that fix problems which could be exploited in older versions.

Use secure payment methods: Credit cards and online payment options, like your Payza e-wallet, are much better purchasing methods than money transfers and personal checks because if something does go wrong, you are still protected. When completing a payment, make sure that you are entering your information securely. Don’t enter your payment card details into a pop-up window or confirm personal information to any follow-up emails you receive. Also, be sure that the site you are buying from uses encryption technology like SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and HTTPS protocols (the “S” is for “Secure”) to protect your information. Look for the “Lock” icon in your browser. Different browsers have this icon in different places so don’t be fooled by a lock in the wrong place. When you click it, you should be able to view a security certificate; if you can’t, it’s a fake.

Payza

A protected site will display an icon that lets you know it’s secure.

Read the fine print: Wherever you shop, make sure to read the privacy and return policies for your merchant. Some reputable merchants engage in a practice known as post-transaction marketing: they sell your purchasing information to third parties who can then target you for further purchases. In this situation, buyers might see a pop-up window appear while they are completing a transaction with one site and unwittingly buy a product or subscription from another company altogether. Classmates.com was one of the most notorious abusers of this practice, but it was definitely not the only one. Post-transaction marketing recently received a lot of attention from US lawmakers looking to regulate what information can be passed to third-party marketers. By the end of 2010, the “Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act” was passed.

To learn more about online security, read our other articles and tips on the subject.

Use these tips as a guideline to stay safe and jolly during your holiday shopping. Let us know how you stay safe when shopping online by leaving a comment below, or join the conversation on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

  • Pandora

    Thanks for the article. We ALL need to be more proactive about our personal account security. In this day and age we need to take responsibility of our info. If you don’t trust the site don’t use it. . But one thing that can’t be stressed enough is taking advantage of the 2FA (2-Factor Authentication). Although it’s been around for a while, not enough sites are offering and promoting this option. And the even sadder fact is there are millions of people who are not taking advantage of this awesome functionality that is being offered to them by several sites. I really hope people and companies wake-up to the need to kick this complacent attitude about authentication and passwords. Take advantage of the 2FA which allows us to telesign into our accounts. I know some will claim this make things more complicated, but the slight inconvenience each time you log in is worth the confidence of knowing your info is secure. This should be a prerequisite to any system that wants to promote itself as being secure.