November 15, 2014

Cyber Monday Security

online shopping security tips

Year after year, Cyber Monday and general online holiday shopping have grown in popularity. You can easily understand why when you think about the convenience of shopping in the comfort of your home in pajamas instead of fighting traffic and long lines to shop at brick-and-mortar stores. However, after the major Target data breach during last year's shopping season along with later stories of other major retailers being hacked, consumers may want to look at adopting security measures to reduce the risk of becoming a future identity theft victim.

Here are some online shopping tips to keep you safe and cyber-crooks at bay during this shopping season.
  • Conduct independent research on sellers. Before entering your personal information on a website, check them out at the Better Business Bureau site to see if they're reputable company. If possible, read reviews by previous buyers to learn how they rate their experience. 

  • Shop on a computer instead of smartphone. Computers have antivirus, spam filters, firewalls, and other software to provide layers of security to alert you to risky sites and protect you from malware. Most smartphones lack this capability, which leave you vulnerable. 

  • Use trusted Interent connection and devices. Using unknown connection points, such as public Wi-Fi hotspots, easily leaves your information exposed to hackers. Unknown devices may have malware, keystroke recorders, or other malicious items hackers use in attempt to obtain sensitive personal information from unsuspecting people. Use only trusted, password protected connection points and devices.

  • Keep your anti-virus, spam filter, and software updated. Routinely companies release updates in attempt to address newly discovered vulnerabilities that hackers try to exploit. Make sure your computer has all the latest updates to keep you safe. Some anti-virus have an Internet add on that alerts you to the safety of the website. While this may slow down Internet searches by a few second, it is a minor time investment in security.

  • Google (as in the verb, not the noun) web address instead of typing in the address bar. Scammers often use similar or common misspellings of legitimate business sites to set up fake sites, which look very authentic. Search engines attempt to correct typos and direct you to the legitimate business website.

  • Use secure sites. The "https://" or a closed yellow padlock displayed at the bottom of the screen are your clues.

  • Use credit instead of debit cards. The federal Fair Credit Billing Act provides credit card consumers more protection than debit card users. Additionally, the debit card is directly tied to your bank account, so you're giving potential cyber thieves direct access to your money.

  • Use a separate card for online shopping. I recommend using a credit card with a low credit limit to be designated for online shopping. Some also use a debit card tied to a separate account  with limited amount of funds specifically used for online shopping. These options reduces your personal risk should the card accidentally become compromised. 

  • Change passwords. Online businesses often store your credit card and mailing information in your online account for convenience. Ensure you change the passwords to these accounts frequently (i.e. every 90 days), make them rather complex, and don't use the same password as your major online accounts such as Facebook or online banking. Read our The commonly common password to learn our password tips.

  • Protect your personal information. Pay attention to the privacy notice to see how the site would use the information you provide. If it is missing, that is your red flag that the site would use your information for other reasons, and you should have second thoughts about doing business with them.

  • Don't fall for high-pressure tactics. Scammers are notorious for using high pressure sale tactics, such as a "limited time only," "only a few in stock," or "buy now." Some legitimate businesses may use these taglines as well, but remember it is your money, you're in control, and it is okay to walk away if it is not something you need. If the deal is too good to be true, it probably is. 

  • Keep receipts and check credit card/bank statements. While it may be painful to look at how much you spent, checking your statement is important to spot fraudulent charges early. Compare the charges listed in your statement against your receipts. Scrub your statements for unauthorized charges and report them immediately. 

ADT (2014). Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2014: Your safe shopping list. Retrieved from

Cyber Monday Deals(n.d.).  Cyber Monday calls for extra security vigilance. Retrieved from 

Junker, N. (27 November 2013). So many shoes, so little security: Your guide to Cyber Monday. Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). Retrieved from
Mulpuru, S. (25 November 2013). US online holiday retail sales to reach $78.7B. Forbes. Retrieved from

Tresbesch, L. (27 November 2013). Top 8 tips for holiday shopping online (part II). Better Business Bureau. Retrieved from 
Vancouver Island Better Business Bureau (26 November 2013). BBB offers advice to Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers.  Retrieved from 

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