Shopping online is one of the most convenient ways to purchase everything from clothing to electronics to basic household necessities. But online shopping also involves the exchange of personal financial information that can sometimes make consumers a bit wary.
There are, however, a number of ways you can protect yourself when shopping online to make it a safe, pleasant experience.
Here are 5 tips to help keep you safe when shopping online.
1. Shop Only on Reputable Websites
When shopping online, one of the very first things you want to do is to check and make sure that the web address starts with HTTPS instead of just HTTP.
The S stands for secure and it signifies that there is an additional layer of security on the website that encrypts data before sending. That way, even if the data is intercepted, it can't be read.
Several browsers now warn you if you are visiting a site that is not secure, but it is always best to quickly check the web address for yourself.
2. Check Credit Card Statements Often
Most credit card companies actually offer apps that allow you to check your balances and purchases on the go. While you may not have the time to check them every day, you shouldn't wait until the end of the month and only check your statement.
During the holiday season in particular, you should check credit, debit and checking accounts much more frequently and investigate any purchases you don't recognize.
The sooner you report any irregularities to your bank or card issuer, the more likely you are to stop any fraudulent transactions from happening.
3. Use Secure Passwords
Every year, SplashData releases a list of the top 100 most frequently used passwords, culled from more than 5 million hacked accounts found online.
Again and again, year after year, "password" and "123456" continue to top the list.
Not only should all of your accounts have unique passwords, but they should contain a mix of numbers, lowercase and capital letters and even symbols.
Needless to say, it will be impossible to keep track of all of your many passwords, so you can use a password manager to help you out.
4. Stay Away from Public Wi-Fi Networks
The best way to keep your financial data safe is to simply avoid using public WiFi at all. This also means turning off features on your devices that automatically link to public WiFi whenever it is available.
If you must use public WiFi, you can still keep your data safe by using a VPN service which creates a Virtual Private Network. There are a number of free and paid programs that can do this.
5. Use Online Payment Services
Services like PayPal and Apple Pay allow you to pay for things online without revealing any of your account information.
When you use these services, the provider issues a virtual card number that allows the merchant to be paid from your account without any of your permanent data being exchanged.
This also means it cannot be stored on the merchant's servers and downloaded in a data dump.
With a number of new tools available, shopping online has actually become far more secure than ever before.
While it is still important to take some basic precautions, you can generally shop online from most merchants with ease and confidence.