November 17th, 2021 by GSC Customer Care
Hackers and scammers hope you don’t read this article, though!
Shopping online is convenient, easy, and fun. But, as with everything on the internet, there are risks
involved. Hackers and scammers are constantly thinking up new ways to take advantage of you and your personal information.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself.
1. Use familiar websites. Retailers you know and trust should be your go-to resource when shopping online. If you venture out to sites you’re less familiar with, do a Google search of the retailer’s name plus the word “scams.” If anything comes up, move on to another site. Also, carefully review the site to make
sure it seems legitimate.
2. Look for https. The initial part of a website URL is either “http” or “https.”That “s” at the end means “secure” and you’ll also see a locked padlock icon. Don’t do business on any site that doesn’t have these
3. Read the fine print. Always be aware of the retailer’s return policy and other rules. For example, some
companies offer credit only (not cash back) and some need the merchandise to be in its original condition or even unopened to be returned. Think in advance about the worst-case scenario in case you need to return something.
4. Don’t provide more information than you must. In the checkout process, some shopping sites ask for information they don’t really need, in hopes that you’ll automatically enter it. For example, they may want your email address to send you more information about their products. Look for asterisks (*) indicating “required” next to each field, and only enter information in those fields.
5. Create strong passwords. Passwords are such a simple element of online shopping that they may not seem important. But weak passwords make it easy for hackers to access your accounts. So, be sure your passwords are at least 15 characters and contain both uppercase and lowercase letters plus numerals and special characters. To eliminate having to keep track of your complex passwords, use a password manager.
6. Check credit card and bank statements regularly. The faster you catch fraudulent activity, the more quickly you can get it resolved. Check your credit card and bank statements regularly, especially during the holiday season. Look for unfamiliar transactions and contact your financial institution immediately if you find any.
7. Practice robust computer hygiene. Maintain computer safety by keeping anti-malware and antivirus programs up to date. Also, be sure to update your operating system and other programs when the software prompts you to do so. Never open attachments or links in email from unfamiliar sources, as doing so could infect your computer with malware.
8. Know what communication to expect. Speaking of email, scammers use it to get you to take damaging action by presenting themselves as companies you likely do business with. Learn to spot a genuine email from the retailers you buy from versus a fake one. Telltale signs include addressing you as “sir” or
“madam” rather than your name, bad grammar, and facts that don’t line up (such as a purchase being delayed when this information didn’t appear at the time of the transaction).
9. Don’t use public Wi-Fi to shop. Hackers can set up phony Wi-Fi networks, so if you get on the wrong one by accident, you’ve essentially given them free access to any information you send. Always check and double-check the correct spelling of the network you intend to use and, just to be safe, wait until you get to your safe home network to shop.
10. Use a VPN. If you must use public Wi-Fi, protect yourself with a virtual private network (VPN). This technology creates an impenetrable “tunnel” between your computer and the server, ensuring that all information that passes through it is encrypted.
11. Use store apps. If you want to use your phone to shop and do business with a particular retailer frequently, download their app and make your purchases directly from there. These apps are secure and have added benefits like notifications that tell you when your purchases are on the way.
12. Be suspicious of amazing deals. If you see an ad for a deal that seems too good to be true, it very well might be a scam. First, shop around to see what the going cost for that item actually is. Next, do some research about the company that’s making the offer. If the company name isn’t listed, that’s another red flag. Finally, don’t click a link to the site. Instead, find it through a Google search and think twice before entering your credit card number.
13. Use credit cards or PayPal. In other words, don’t use debit cards. The reason is that debit cards don’t offer the same protection features as credit cards and PayPal, such as fraud protection. For additional safety, consider using a temporary credit card number, which you can get through your credit card issuer.
14. Track your purchase. Don’t let clicking the “buy” button be your final action on a purchase. When the receipt screen comes up, save it as a PDF in a special folder on your computer. Note when your purchase should be delivered and mark it on your calendar or in an app. If it doesn’t arrive on time, contact the seller and, if they are unhelpful, contact your credit card company to start a fraud investigation.
15. Report scammers. If, after using these strategies, you still get scammed, be sure to report it. Doing so can help companies and agencies to reduce the amount of this activity. Contact the retailer and your financial institution, plus the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, as well as the Federal Trade Commission.
© Cornerstone Group 2021