Online shopping has a lot going for it. You don’t have to worry about finding a parking spot, you don’t have to drive to five different stores to find the thing you want, and you don’t have to carry any bags around. Everything is delivered straight to your door. You save on gas, stress, and schlepping.
However, there is a downside to online shopping—or there can be, if you aren’t careful. As more people flock to online shopping rather than pounding the pavement looking for that perfect gift, more thieves look for opportunities to steal people’s personal information and account information.
KeyBank has issued a list of guidelines to help folks stay safe during the holiday season, so that online shopping doesn’t create more hassle than it saves. Here are six ways to guard your information online and shop securely:
1. Lock down your computer and mobile devices. This means cell phones, iPad, laptops, and notebooks. Enable autolock and password protection so that if there is no activity on the device for a certain number of minutes, no one can get in without your password. Secure your Wi-Fi network at home as well, and use unique passwords for each device and your home Wi-Fi.
2. Stay offline if you’re not on a secure network—at least, if you’re going to input your payment or account information. You can browse the Internet from a public network all you want, and no harm will be done. But if your device automatically connects to public Wi-Fi when you’re within range, you could be vulnerable to fraudulent activity.
3. Only download shopping apps from sources you know are secure, like the Apple Store and Google Play. Keep them up-to-date, as the updates often contain security fixes that help keep your information safe.
4. Shop at sites you know are legit. Type in the URL directly, rather than clicking links that might take you to counterfeit merchants. You can always check out a site’s listing with the Better Business Bureau if you aren’t sure they’re trustworthy.
5. Stay away from pop-up ads. No matter how good the offer or how tempted you are, always use the little “x” at the top of the pop-up window to close the ad. You can always go to a site directly if they have a sale you want to get in on.
6. Use credit cards to pay for online purchases, not debit cards or prepaid cards. This gives you an extra layer of security, since you aren’t directly accessing your funds. If something goes wrong, you’ can let your credit issuer know, and you won’t be out any money.