Today you can buy groceries, book a flight, and buy a Groupon for a hand drawn cat without ever having to leave your house (or bed). As wonderful as this is, the growth of online shopping has also created an increase in cyber crimes. But, don’t worry, this does not mean you have to actually leave your house to get any shopping done. Follow these tips to help protect your data when shopping online.
Avoid Public WiFi
As nice as it is to sit in a coffee shop and use free WiFi, all while sipping on a ten dollar latte, try to save the online shopping for when you are on a private network. Public WiFi networks may not be secure, and can make you vulnerable to having your sensitive information compromised. If you are making purchases on your cell phone, simply use your cellular data instead of WiFi. However, if you must use public WiFi, try using a VPN while making online purchases. A VPN encrypts your data, allowing your information to pass through securely, as well as provides many other additional security benefits.
Ridiculously Strong Passwords
Although it’s tempting to use the same password for everything, please don’t! Creating strong passwords, with a mix of numbers, characters, and letters, will help keep all your personal information in good hands. If you’re the kind of person who occasionally sets off their car alarm to find their car (I know I’m not the only one), then try out a service like LastPass. It may be one of the best life decisions you ever make.
Check Your Bank Statements
In an ideal world we would like to avoid ever having to check our bank statements for fraudulent charges. However, even after taking precautions, it is still important to continually check your bank statement to ensure your information has not been compromised. Often criminals will try out small charges before making larger purchases, so be sure to know where every charge has came from.
Contrary to popular belief, SSL does NOT actually stand for Super Sexy Llama, but actually stands for Secure Sockets Layer. An SSL encryption is a security technology that allows for sensitive information, such as credit cards for shopping, to be transmitted securely through a website. You will recognize a website that contains a SSL encryption if it starts with https:// and has a padlock next to the URL. Do not shop or give personal information to a site that does not have this.
Research The Websites Credibility
It is a great idea to try shopping on familiar websites as much as possible. But, those times you find yourself on a new website, do a little background check before inputting any personal or payment information. Taking this extra step may seem like a pain, but it will prove worthwhile in the long run. And, always remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, that’s because it probably is.