The 3 Step Way to Shop Safe Online this Holiday

Tis the Season for Credit Card Thieves and Hackers

by: Cat Coode

The 3 Step Way to Shop Safe Online this Holiday

Staying safe while online shopping |

Who doesn’t love holiday shopping? This woman.

The thought of cramming in to busy stores and listening to the 17th cover version of Jingle Bell Rock makes me queasy. So I do all my shopping online. It’s always open, it’s all in one place and they ship to all my out-of-town relatives. Amazing, right? Alas, like all wonderful advantages that new technology gives us, there are also pitfalls. Holiday shopping is also the most wonderful time of the year for lots of credit card numbers and new account information rife for the taking. That doesn’t mean you need to fall prey to their scams.

Here are some guidelines to keep safe online and meet your shopping goals like a pro: 

Step 1: Selecting a good site

Whenever possible I stick to large online retailers, like Amazon, Indigo, or big box retailers. I know if there is a problem, they’ve got my back.

But let’s say a kid on your list is dying for some custom skateboard or sold-out doll or discontinued Lego set. You have scoured the internet and finally found it. Unfortunately it comes from eBay, Kijiji, Etsy or some small shop in Wisconsin that happens to have an online store. Can you trust the source?

In these cases it is buyer beware. There are no guarantees that sellers online are who they say they are. I have had both success and failure with these sites. If you have to use them:

  • On multiple seller sites like eBay or Etsy, check for ratings and reviews on the seller by clicking on their names. Clearly most reviews should be positive. Be wary when there are few to no reviews
  • Avoid cash payments or direct deposit
  • When in doubt, check with the Better Business Bureau

Step 2: Making an account

Now that you’ve found what you are looking for, many websites will ask you to create an account. This allows the site to maintain your billing address and preferences. Do you need to create an account to use a site? Not usually. For a one-off purchase, many sites allow purchasing without registering. You may want to consider this. Having more accounts increases your digital footprint, or binary tattoo, and the temptation to reuse username/password combinations can present a security risk.

If you do need a new account:

  • Use a new password and limit the information you enter to only what is required
  • Watch for and uncheck where you agree to have your address or information shared
  • Read the Terms and Conditions. If you are wary, this is where they list what they do with your information

If you chose to log in using a Social Network profile:

Many sites allow login via Twitter/Facebook/Google+ in lieu of creating a new account. It saves you a new password, but the new site takes information from that network and may post on your behalf. Here is what you are sharing if you opt to do this:

  • Twitter: bio, followers, following list
  • Google+: connection list, age range, email address and profile photo
  • Facebook: location, gender, profile photo, favourites (that are public), friends list (if public), followers, relationship status, network and schools attended.

Step 3: Processing payment

To make your purchase you will minimally need your name, address and payment info.

  • Protect your data by ensuring that the site is secure. Look for an ‘S’ in the web address. It should say ‘https://’ not ‘http://’
  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card. The transactions are traced by the credit card company and they monitor for fraud.
  • Even better, use Paypal, when available. Paypal verifies companies it supports and this avoids sharing your credit card number with a new site.

Stay safe, have fun, and happy shopping!

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