**Originally published December 12, 2017. Updated November 8, 2019.**
Cyber Monday kicks off the holiday shopping season each year, and this year was no different. It also marks the high season for online shopping security risks. During the 2018 holiday shopping season, online purchase fraud increased by 13%, and the dollar amount of fraud attempts increased by 6%, according to benchmark data from ACI Worldwide. There are also big data breaches almost every year so make sure that you keep security top of mind.
Here’s some tips on protecting your data when shopping online for the holidays.
Use Passwords That are Strong
The single best way to prevent yourself from being hacked is to create a strong and unique password for every website that you buy from. Remember, this password could be all that is stopping someone from accessing your credit card information, address, and other personal information. Use a password that contains letters, both upper case and lower case, numbers, and symbols. You should avoid using anything obvious, too, like your pet’s name. And NEVER use the same password for multiple accounts. If you have a hard time remembering all of those unique passwords, consider to make your life a little easier.
Update All Software
We are all guilty of not updating our software when we should. However, don’t do this with your anti-virus software – especially before you embark on an online shopping spree, as this software can help to prevent hackers from getting into your accounts. Also, make sure to update your operating system and all other software as well. All it takes is a single vulnerability in an outdated piece of software for a cybercriminal to gain access to your computer.
Use Two-Step Verification When Possible
Many businesses offer two-factor verification on their sites to log in. This adds an extra layer of security that hackers must get around, and it’s difficult for them to do so. Any time that you can make use of two-factor authentication, you should.
Ignore Strange Emails
Many companies send holiday shopping promotional emails all throughout the holiday season. Some hackers try to capitalize on this, and attempt to catch victims through phishing scams. Don’t fall for scams promising unrealistically deep discounts or free merchandise. You know what they say: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”
Keep an Eye on Credit Card Statements
Keep a close eye on your credit card statements for any activity that looks suspicious. If you do find a charge you do not recognize, report it immediately. Sign up for alerts and notifications for all your charges.
Keep Your Devices Locked
An unlocked device can easily expose your personal information to hackers. Keep your devices locked with a password or biometric option.
Only Use Approved Apps
Only use shopping apps that you download from a trusted source – including the Amazon App Store, Android Market, and Apple App Store. Also, carefully review the access permissions of each app has on your device. For instance, do you really need to give a shopping app access to your list of contacts? Probably not.
Shop Safely from a Computer
Even when shopping on the computer, make sure that you are connected to a secure network. Public Wi-Fi networks are not safe and leave your devices vulnerable to mobile attacks. Always use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) when shopping online connected to a public Wi-Fi connection.
Use a Mobile Security App
Finally, consider identity theft protection with a mobile security app that performs comprehensive mobile device scanning for rogue applications, spyware, unsecured Wi-Fi connections and fake networks, to further enhance your safety when shopping online during the holidays. These make shopping apps on your phones and tablets much safer.
Printable Tip Sheet to Share with Your Friends, Family, and Coworkers
Download these five tips today to help yourself and everyone you care about protect themselves from identity theft during the holiday shopping season. Perfect for the refrigerator or the break room. Be sure to print and share!