Shopping online is a pleasure. No traffic, no crowds, no searching for a parking spot, but beware of scams.
There’s no getting around it; you need to keep your guard up. While shopping on legitimate, well-known sites belonging to your favorite department store or specialty shop is probably not going to be a problem, lesser-known sites that come up when you’re looking for a bargain and Googling something specific could be places for concern. The same can be said for auction sites such as eBay.
Here’s what you can do to ensure that all your online shopping is as secure as a trip to the mall:
- Call the retailer first. If you’re not sure about the website’s legitimacy, pick up the phone and try the number that is listed. Anyone can set up a website today, and it doesn’t take much to make it look like a legitimate company. Before entering your credit card number, see if you can talk to a live person. Not being able to find a phone number is a big red flag.
- Google the retailer and read the reviews. Are others sharing similar issues or complaints about the site you’re about to order from?
- Make sure the site is secure. In today’s online world, you don’t want to risk entering your credit card information online unless that site is encrypted. Encrypted websites have a URL that begins with the letters “https”, not just “http.” Look also for a lock icon next to the URL letting you know you’re entering a secure site. If it’s not secure, don’t shop at the site.
- Don’t input any more information than is necessary. There’s no reason why a company you’re ordering a sweatshirt from needs your date of birth, social security number or income level. Anyone asking for that type of information is either selling it to others for marketing purposes or is engaged in identity theft.
- Don’t click on links from unsolicited emails and be extra cautious with links from social media ads. Instead, find the site yourself through a search engine or type it in manually if you know it.
- Check your account activity often, especially during the holiday season. Make sure your transactions are correct and keep an eye out for any activity you do not recognize.
While shopping online is convenient, it’s also important to ensure that your information is safe. Exercise caution while you shop online, just as you would carefully guard your cash and credit cards when shopping at a busy mall during the holidays (see our recent post for more on that).
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