Online Shopping Tips to Keep You and Your Information Safe & Secure
If you’re like most Americans, you’ve shopped online more than usual during quarantine. With many stores still closed and/or with smaller inventories, online shopping has become our go-to option for essential and non-essential purchases. As usual, cybercriminals are keeping stride.
Even pre-COVID-19, online purchasing was the most common scam type reported to the Better Business Bureau in 2019, representing nearly 1 in 4 complaints, and the one that most often led to a financial loss.
The most common scams involve fake online stores and even mobile apps. The stores are made to look real but carry these telltale signs that they’re not:
- Any domain other than .com or .net.
- Unprofessional web design (including suspect graphics and poor English/grammar).
- Too good to be true discounts. Be suspicious of anything over 55% (according to Norton).
Watch out for these and avoid these sites. Here are some other steps you can take to avoid falling prey to scams:
- Slow down. Take a few extra minutes to avoid making impulse purchases.
- When you find an item you like, Google it to find out if it and the price are legitimate. Try to find it on a site you trust.
- Avoid buying from unknown sites. Only make purchases through sites that start with “https://”.
- If the site is new to you, explore it before you buy. If you realize anything you’d typically find on a trustworthy site (refund/exchange policies, contact information, customer service options) is missing or seems sketchy, click away.
- Before you click “COMPLETE YOUR PURCHASE”, ask yourself: Do I trust this site? If not, is this one purchase worth the risk of compromising my accounts, and even my identify and overall financial health?
- Trust your instincts. If something looks suspicious or plain wrong, it likely is. Chances are high that you can find the same or a similar item from a reputable vendor.
Finally, NEVER provide a credit card number or bank account information. Use PayPal or one of these free alternatives for all of your online transactions. Among others, the benefits of these services include:
- Buyer protection. This is especially important when purchasing from a site you haven’t bought from in the past, particularly if their return policy is unclear or vague.
- Enhanced security. The online store never gains access to your credit card or bank details, dramatically reducing your chances of becoming victim to identity theft or fraud.
Quarantine has likely heightened the pressure and anxiety you’re experiencing. Criminals are banking on this vulnerability and the chances that you’ll abandon your strong cyber safety habits during this strange time. But, you can disappoint them. Just take a few extra minutes to tune into and listen to your instincts before you buy online. It may make all the difference.
Written by: Sarah Nicholas
Sarah is the Director of Communications for Serendipity Communications. She lives in Plainwell, Michigan with her husband, daughters and stepson, with twin stepdaughters nearby. She is passionate about cyber safety education and animal rights and enjoys ballet dancing, reading and volunteering at her children’s school.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.
Ameris Bank is not affiliated with nor endorses any of the companies featured in this article.