Here are eight safety rules to protect your information while shopping online during Cyber Monday (or any day)

We all know how significant Black Friday is to holiday shopping. And while Black Friday usually drives shoppers physically to the stores, in the last few years, its online sister, Cyber Monday, has emerged as a major force.

This year online shopping is poised to be even bigger because of COVID-19.

While people purchasing gifts online may help retailers struggling from the pandemic, you know who else is eagerly awaiting this holiday? Cyber thieves.

Just like you’re looking forward to snagging Amazon Prime deals, these criminals see Cyber Monday as a prime opportunity to steal your sensitive information. You’re not helpless against their predatory ways though, and you don’t have to become a victim.

Here, we’ll give you eight tips to help you protect your private data on Cyber Monday and all throughout the holiday shopping season.

1. Only shop on secure sites

We’re all looking for deals when we shop, so it’s easy to get caught by things that are on major sale, especially online. That obscure website you’ve never heard of might have a great deal on headphones, but it might also be a scam.

One good way to keep your information safe is to only shop from secure websites. How do you know if a site is secure? Check the URL in the browser window and only buy from online stores that have “https “at the beginning of the address, rather than “http.”

The extra “s” in the URL means the site uses a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to encrypt information. This makes it harder for cyber thieves to unlock and read data, even if they do manage to steal it. Check the URL next time you visit Amazon or Apple’s website for instance, and you’ll notice this distinction.

One other reason to check the URL is that cyber thieves are good at “cloning” popular sites to make you think it’s the legitimate one. If a website that you know has “https” in the title, such as Amazon, doesn’t, you are on a fake, unsafe clone website.

2. Use a secure credit card

Your method of payment can help keep your information safe or make it more vulnerable. Using a debit card may not be smart because it’s linked directly to your bank account. If that information is stolen, the rest of your financial accounts become vulnerable. Also, avoid using wire transfers, as there’s no easy way to track that money or get a refund. 

A credit card with fraud protection and refund services is the safest way to go.

3. Monitor your credit 

It can take months before companies will alert you that your data might have been compromised. By then, cyber thieves might have already been “making merry” with your credit card or other personal information for a long time.

Be sure to go over your credit card and bank statements carefully to make sure there are no unusual or unexpected charges during the holiday season, especially after Cyber Monday. 

You can also enroll in a credit monitoring service that will send you an alert when it senses suspicious activity.

4. Keep your devices updated

You know those notices on your phone and computer informing you that an update is available for your operating system (OS), apps, or browser? Make sure you do them. Often the updates include patches designed to protect against vulnerabilities in the software that leave you open to being hacked.

5. Mix up your passwords

We understand it’s nearly impossible to remember every password you use. But using the same one for every login is not the way to go. If cyber thieves manage to “break your code” on one site, they’ll be able to get into all of the other ones, too.

Choose passwords that are hard to guess. Many sites will suggest a password for you to use. Most devices these days will also remember passwords on sites you’ve visited before.

You can also use online password managers, which store all of your passcodes.

Another easy way to manage your passwords is to go “old school” and write down your passwords in a notebook.

6. Be careful using public Wi-Fi

Free public Wi-Fi at the local café or bookstore is convenient. However, public Wi-Fi is generally not secure and can be more easily hacked. Cyber thieves can gain access to your private information, emails, passwords, and credit card numbers.

 It’s best to just avoid shopping and using your credit card over public Wi-Fi. If you must, use a VPN, which will allow you to make a secured connection to another network.

7. Make sure the deal is legitimate

Cyber Monday presents a plethora of great deals. A lot of them are completely legitimate, especially on trusted websites. However, sometimes an item with a deep discount falls under the category of “too good to be true.”

These deals often come to you in the form of emails, text messages, or pop-up windows on websites. Ads on social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, can be culprits, too, with links that take you to phishing sites or infect your computer with malware.

8. Don’t fall for email phishing schemes

Phishing schemes are a clever way to trick you into handing over sensitive information. Never click on a link in an email if you don’t recognize the sender or email address. Even if it seemingly comes from a legitimate source, such as your bank, credit card company, or PayPal, it can still be a scam.

No financial institution or online shopping site should ever send an email asking you to enter personal or account information in order to “verify your account” or keep your account from closing.

If you’re ever unsure, call the credit card company/bank directly using the customer service number on the back of the card. Never click on the link or use the phone number provided in the email.

Shop smart to protect your information this holiday season

We all enjoy buying gifts for family and friends during the holidays. Cyber Monday presents opportunities to secure some great deals. However, cyber thieves will also be hard at work trying to steal your information. Follow these eight steps to shop smart and protect yourself.

Be sure you’re also protecting yourself with the right personal or commercial insurance. We can help you find plans to protect your home, car, boat, and your business. Contact us to talk about your insurance needs.

This blog and website are made available by the publisher for educational and informational purposes only. It is not to be used as a substitute for competent insurance, legal, or tax advice from a licensed professional in your state.