Tips for Safe and Secure Online Shopping

The holiday shopping season kicked off at the stroke of midnight this Friday November 25 for Black Friday. The weekend of retail festivities continues on until early next week with online shoppers snatching up a bevy of deals on Cyber Monday. All that shopping means you’ll be sure to find a great deals from anything between international flights to cotton balls. It’s also surely to attract some naughty people looks to take advantage of your shopping high. Let's not let them ruin our fun this weekend. Here are our tips on how to stay secure while getting your holiday deals and steals.

Use Sites You Know

Shop on sites you’re already familiar with or a major retail outlet. That’s not to say major outlets are always safe, but they’re less likely to rip you off. Beware of sites that use different top-level domains or have misspellings, or worse both (such as

Don’t Overshare

Be careful to not share too much personal information. If any retail site requests your social security number, run far, far away. Also be wary of a retail site that asks for information like your birthday, mother’s maiden name, your first pet’s name, your income… you get the idea. Sometimes sites promise great deals for disclosing this information, so you need to ask yourself if the deal is worth it. The Devil is in the details, and it’s with this metadata that criminals can cause some serious damage.

For most online retail outlets, the only information they need to process your purchase is your name, billing address (plus mailing address, if you’re buying a tangible item), email address, and credit card information. And before you even think about entering that information, check that the site you’re on is encrypted.

Stay on a secure network

Free Wi-Fi is especially tempting during a time like Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend while you’re shopping on the go. But remember it’s incredibly unsafe. A network is only as secure as everyone one it. So if just anyone can hop on a public network, then malicious somebodies can, too. You should be very cautious of jumping on a public network, even if it’s password protected (how protected can the corner cafe’s network be it the password is on the wall, right?). But if you must, then make sure to turn on your VPN.

Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

VPNs are a must-have if you use any public Wi-Fi network, password protected or not. Because VPNs encrypt your information, you can do your usual shopping routine - browse a site, login or sign up for a site, check your bank account, enter your credit card information and address – without having to worry about malicious hackers getting a hold of your sensitive data.

Another perk of shopping while on a VPN is that sometimes you can unlock geo-restricted deals. PC Advisor has some great tips on using a VPN to lock down cheaper flights.

Check your bank statements

It's always good practice to regularly check your bank and credit card accounts for suspicious purchases, but even more so during the holiday season. If something looks out of place, investigate right away. If it turns out to be fraudulent, let your bank or card issuer know and immediately report the card in question.

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