Don't let hackers and cyberscams spoil your holiday shopping!
Dr. Cole advises you to “make sure you’re using an up-to-date browser that’s verifying the digital certificate of the site.” Most modern browsers will let you know if something is secure. On Chrome, there will be a green lock next to the URL; that’s an indicator that your information going in a secure manner, and it’s verifying and validating the digital certificate of that site to give a higher level of trust, Dr. Cole says. In other browsers the lock may be yellow or appear as a key.
If your Internet browser doesn’t have an icon to indicate security, “Look for ‘https’ in the website address,” says Jacob Lunduski, a financial industry analyst for Credit Card Insider, a site that helps people find the right credit card for their finances. “This means the website is ‘secure’ and provides credibility when purchasing an item.”
Think Twice About Third-Party Sellers
What if you’re shopping from a big company like Amazon? Even though the distributor is trusted, some of the retailers that operate on the site might not always be legitimate. For Amazon purchases, look out for third-party sales that are neither sold nor fulfilled by Amazon.
“When you click on an item it will tell you whether you’re buying it directly from Amazon or if it’s going through a third party,” Dr. Cole says. “Anytime you’re buying things from a third-party, your credit card is now being charged and sent to that third-party, and if they’re not legitimate…they could easily be able to steal your information.”
If you’re determined to purchase something from a third-party vendor, there are a few things you can do to minimize your risk. “Always read descriptions and reviews when possible,” Krush says. Predominantly bad reviews are a sign that something is fishy. And good reviews can be faked, so Will Geddes, author of Parent Alert, recommends you be wary of “a small number of short, generic, and positive reviews all posted within a short period of time and from the same country.”
Also try to check how long the retailer has been a vendor on Amazon. “If they’ve been a retailer for Amazon for five years, that’s probably an indicator that they’re somewhat legit,” Dr. Cole says.
Be Careful with Your Credit
Even if you take all possible precautions, fraud and identity theft are still possibilities. The reason for this is simple: Every day, hackers are getting better and better at what they do. “The number one thing families can do is to utilize a separate credit card just for online purchases that has a small balance,” Dr. Cole advises. “If fraudulent activity occurs or if it gets stolen, now all you have to do is get a new card and you don’t have to worry about if you’re using that card for bills.”
There are other good reasons to use a credit card for your online shopping. “With credit cards, the liability is with the credit card provider. With debit cards, the liability is with you,” Dr. Cole says. Additionally, it’s important to note that “credit cards offer many purchase and fraud protections where you’ll have time to report and manage the fraud before your bill is due,” Lunduski says. “With a debit card, fraudulent purchases leave your account immediately, causing you to have to work with your bank to get your money back.”
When it comes to safety features, you should always “go to your credit card’s website or call them, [and] turn [these features] on,” says Dr. Cole, who personally receives text messages every time his card is used. If somehow your credit card is compromised, he recommends that you activate this feature, so you can stay informed at all times.