E-commerce has made shopping faster and more convenient. Today, approximately 69% of Americans have made an online purchase. By 2023, the United States will have 300 million online shoppers (91 percent of the country’s population).
However, online shoppers who do not properly secure their personal data are more susceptible to cyber attacks and identity theft.
Below, we provide five tips to secure personal and financial information online and ensure safe delivery of online purchases.
Buy from Credible Websites
Understand the potential risks of shopping online, such as identity theft or fraud, to properly safeguard your sensitive information.
Shop only on credible websites. Cyber attackers often pose as e-retailers to obtain personal and financial data or gain access to devices. Avoid falling victim to a cyber attack with the following precautions:
- Avoid clicking on suspicious emails or links. Cyber attackers may use vicious malware in emails or links to obtain sensitive data, such as credit card information or social security numbers.
- Read customer reviews. Research unfamiliar online retailers and be wary of particularly negative reviews, and look for suspiciously positive reviews (which may be false or unreliable).
- Understand the e-retailer’s return policy. Be aware of proper return procedures should you be unsatisfied with a product.
Connect to a Secured Network
An unsecured network could leave your personal and financial data vulnerable to attack, as it is easily accessible to cyber criminals. Be aware of online shopping risks while on the go, and use the following security tips:
- Avoid public Wi-Fi networks. Cyber attackers may easily intercept sensitive data through an unsecured network.
- Connect to a virtual private network (VPN) whenever possible. VPNs encrypt your data and protect sensitive information from being stolen.
- Shop on websites that contain “https://”. Look for sites that include “https://” in the address, which indicates that data is encrypted and not accessible to cyber attackers.
Use Secure Payments
Compromising personal payment information could lead to identity theft or fraudulent use. Credit cards are the safest payment method for online transactions as opposed to ATM or debit cards. This is because online shoppers are typically less liable for loss from unauthorized use. Take the following actions to secure online payments and protect financial data:
- Continually check credit card statements for irregularities. Identify and promptly respond to any fraudulent activity. Contact your bank to see if an automatic feature that alerts you of suspicious account activity is offered.
- Never store credit card data on your devices. Re-enter credit card information for each transaction to prevent users with access to your device from taking advantage of stored information.
- Refrain from providing unnecessary information. Avoid supplying retailers with highly sensitive information, such as your social security number or date of birth.
- Utilize “virtual” credit cards. Use the alternate card number provided by the issuer to protect your actual credit card information in the case of a breach.
Protect Smart Devices
Shopping on a mobile device offers convenience for shoppers. However, it can significantly increase security risks. Properly secure your smart device to mitigate the risk of compromising personal information:
- Download and purchase from credible retailers’ mobile applications to ensure secure transactions.
- Install updated security software, such as antivirus or anti-spyware, on your device as it becomes available.
- Protect your phone with a unique and complex password, PIN or pattern.
- Use two-factor authentication to confirm your identity with at least two types of credentials. For example, your phone may require your passcode and your fingerprint to unlock, or your email may require a password and a numeric code sent to your phone.
Utilize Video Surveillance Cameras
After making an online purchase, ensure your package arrives safely at your doorstep with surveillance cameras or doorbell cameras. Monitor your front door from any web-enabled device in real-time to:
- Confirm your package arrives on time.
- Ensure delivery workers handle items with care.
- Ward off or identify burglars who may attempt to steal your packages.