It’s that time of the year again.
As Christmas is fast approaching, cyber Grinches are ramping up their efforts to steal your personal information. But don’t let yourself be a victim to these sleazy criminals.
With the help of Candice Lanier, a cybersecurity expert, and writer, I’ve compiled a list of six tips that will help keep you safe during your online shopping activities.
1. Check Your Anti-Virus Software Is Activated
Before you begin shopping, double-check that your anti-virus software is running in the background. Software that includes anti-phishing and firewall protection will minimize the risk of cyber crooks stealing your sensitive data.
If you don’t have one installed, there are several available for free: Avast, AVG, and Kaspersky are among the most popular downloads. In 2017, PCMag published a list of the top anti-virus software around, click here to check it out.
2. Don’t Shop Using Free Public Wi-Fi Hotspots
You might find a hard-to-get item online and be tempted to purchase it right away. However, if your browsing through a public Wi-Fi hotspot, chances are your personal data could get snatched by a cyber crook.
These public wireless networks are often unsecured and prime targets for hackers. Instead, wait until you get home or in an area with a secure internet connection.
3. Make Sure The Browser Has A Padlock
When shopping online, you want to be sure your private data, like credit card information, is sent securely. The online store you are browsing should display a green padlock in the address bar, as displayed in the image above.
If there isn’t a padlock, then check that the website address bar begins with “https” and not “http.” Https connections are encrypted and safe. If you shop at an unsecured website, your private data may soon be at the hands of a cyber Grinch.
4. Avoid Using Weak Passwords
According to Lanier, the Chief Operations Officer at Ghost Cyber Intelligence, if you’re still using passwords such as “123456” or “password” in 2017, it’s time to step it up.
“Passwords which are anywhere from 12 to 40 characters long with a mix of letters and characters will be hard to crack. You can use a password manager to keep track of your many, long passwords,” Lanier told Mental Daily.
5. Google Search The Store’s Credibility
One of the most important things to do when shopping online is verifying that the store has a persistent credibility. Although many online stores have secure padlocks, few still take advantage of their clients and may engage in scams.
Imagine purchasing a gift for your loved one with a promised shipping date right before Christmas. Instead, however, you receive the wrong gift or it never arrived on time. Performing a swift search on Google will save you time and money during the shopping season. Beware of low ratings on BBB.org and negative consumer complaints.
6. Minimize Your Credit or Debit Card Data
To reduce the severity of identity theft, using one credit or debit card for your online purchases is probably the smart thing to do. You can even utilize a prepaid card with a limit set to inhibit the risk of possible compromisation.
Moreover, when hitting the checkout button, be cautious of using your browser’s autofill option. This feature will store your credit card information for future purchases; however, it could also give hackers another route to steal private data.
As more people connect to the internet, cyber-psychopathy will continue to increase, manifesting in the form of black hat hackers.
Although there’s nothing we can do to stop this compulsive behavior, we can take extra measures to safeguard our wallets and prevent us from becoming their next victim.