Are you one of the increasing numbers of shoppers who embraces the convenience of making holiday purchases online? If you said yes, you’re part of a rapidly growing sector of consumers. Analysts predict that online retail sales this holiday season will surpass $94 billion this year, a new record.
If you’re like the majority of today’s consumers, making online purchases has become second nature and e-commerce is the new normal. Our collective acceptance of digital retail outlets, however, should not make us so complacent that we overlook the emerging risk of fraud.
A recent article in Forbes surveying 125 retailers found that online fraud attempts are estimated to increase by 43% this year. That’s a big jump. Rather than feeling anxious, these stats should motivate us to look for simple strategies to help minimize risks when shopping online.
With the right advice, it’s easy to shop online safely and benefit from great deals on holiday purchases. Here are 5 safety tips you can start using right away.
Review your transaction history often
Rather than waiting for your monthly statement to arrive, we recommend occasionally reviewing your transaction histories for your credit card, bank account, and Payza account. Make a quick review each week in December and January when your transactions are at their highest. If you wait for your statement to arrive, this high volume makes it more difficult to identify unauthorized purchases.
If you spot a transaction that you don’t remember making, report it immediately to your bank, credit card company, or Payza.
Watch out for phishing emails
Fraudsters know you are shopping online more than usual during the holidays, which makes keeping track of all the online stores you visit and purchases you make more difficult. Expect more phishing email scams to show up in your inbox as cyber criminals try to take advantage of the holiday rush. Beware of fraudulent emails claiming there is a problem with a recent purchase made at a popular online retailer, or that claims there is a problem with your bank or credit card. Be very suspicious of any email requesting your personal financial information, passwords, and/or usernames for any issue related to payments and online shopping.
For even more information about phishing emails, check out our blog article on how to identify these fraud emails.
Shop on sites you know and trust, read reviews for sites you don’t know
If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are countless websites claiming to have high-end merchandise for sale at bargain prices. Most online retailers are legitimate businesses, but some aren’t. Play it safe and limit your purchases to retailers you know. If there’s a deal you simply can’t pass up from a site you’ve never heard of, be sure to research the reputation of the retailer before making a purchase. This is especially important for online auction sites where the seller may not be associated with the website – read the reviews and feedback for sellers.
Beware of fake reviews as well. A high number of positive reviews posted over a period of months to years offer the best estimate of trustworthiness for a seller.
Update your anti-virus software and operating system today
Be certain that you have downloaded all recent updates to your anti-virus and operating system. This ensures your computer is protected from known malware, spyware, and spamware bots that lurk behind the scenes at some online retailers and infect online shopping cart payment gateways. Make sure you are using the latest version of your preferred internet browser as well. Browsers are updated regularly to remove software vulnerabilities known to have been exploited by cyber criminals.
Use secure payment methods and check security certificates
Credit cards and online payment options, like your Payza e-wallet, are more secure methods to make purchases online because they have built-in fraud prevention screening tools to help protect your information. These protections may be absent when you make purchases using direct money transfers or personal checks.
Be sure to only make purchases from websites that have encryption technologies that protect your personal information, such as SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and HTTPS protocols (the “S” means “Secure”). You should see a “lock” icon next to the web address; when you click it, a security certificate should appear for that website; if no security certificate appears, you are likely at a fraudulent website and should navigate away immediately.
Here are even more tips and resources to help you stay safe this holiday season.
- More helpful tips for safe online shopping from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
- Overview of risks for online shopping and online auction websites published by the Government of Canada.