How To Be A Safe Online Shopper

Posted on Aug 28 2013 - 12:47am by Shannon McCarty-Caplan

Internet Shopping

In 2012, U.S. e-commerce sales amounted to 289 billion U.S. dollars, up from 256 billion in 2011. Smartphone shopping, and a 2012 e-commerce market forecast projects online retail revenue in the United States to reach 361.9 billion U.S. dollars in 2016. Smartphone shopping makes shopping even easier. In fact, 79% of smartphone owners are “smartphone shoppers.”

While online shopping offers convenience and ease for consumers- where potential victims go, hackers go. Follow these simple tips for a hassle free shopping experience:

1. Do not use a public computer

If you are using a computer that others have access to, anybody can easily install softwarethat can collect your user ID, PIN numbers or credit/debit card information.

2. Do not use a public Wi-Fi network

Just like a hacker can easily collect your information on a public computer, a public Wi-Fi network can be hacked as well.  Therefore, don’t connect to a public Wi-Fi and shop on your laptop, tablet or smartphone. Wait until you are at home on your private Wi-Fi to do anything where you will be entering personal information.

3. Keep your browser up-to-date

Your browser will usually notify you with a pop up when there is a newer version available. These notifications are easy to ignore, but extremely important. When a browser is outdated, this is gold for hackers. Any information you enter on outdated browsers is easier to access.

4. Use anti-virus/anti-malware software

To be worryfree while browsing online, Internet Security Softwareis highly recommended for your PC, Mac or mobile device. This will safeguard personal information such as credit card numbers and passwords, warn you about dangerous sites before you click on them, protect you from viruses, boost the Windows Firewall, and validatethe security status of Wi-Fi networks and hotspots.

5. Strong Passwords

Create strong passwords for the sites you shop and pay bills on, as stronger passwords mean stronger security. Also, it’s probably not a good idea to have the same password for every site. Consider using a password manager, that way you only have to remember one password for all of your password protected sites.

6. Don’t save your payment information

While this feature may be convenient for online shopping, if a website gets hacked, your information is at risk. Play it safe and manually enter your payment information each time and make sure the website does not save it.

7. Shop at the source

Don’t click on links sent to your email with directions to shop or pay a bill. Bookmark the sites you shop on and enter them from the bookmarks bar. Hackers will often spam peoples email to lure people to enter personal information. When you bookmark the sites you know are legitimate, you don’t have to worry about this. Also, make sure you look for the Trustmark security stamp on sites you shop on.

As technology advances, there are more opportunities for consumers, and unfortunately, more risks. Consumers must keep up with this technology and learn how take advantage of these opportunities while protecting themselves as well.  Happy shopping!

Photo Credit: Flickr/Ivan C

About the Author

Shannon McCarty-Caplan, Consumer Security Advocate at Trend Micro. Shannon has over a dozen years of experience helping consumers and businesses find the security solutions they need to protect their families, privacy and critical data. Shannon is a news junkie with a BA in Journalism from the University of Arizona. On most days, you can find Shannon tweeting or blogging about security issues impacting women and families or geeking out on the latest new tech toys. Shannon resides on the North Coast (Chicago) and spends her free time volunteering for two non-profit organizations, studying foreign languages and traveling with her husband.