Online shopping has steadily gained popularity among consumers. According to Statista, more than 2 billion people made a purchase online in 2020. With the rise of consumers shopping online, scammers are finding more creative ways to gather your personal data. Before you make your next online purchase, keep these tips in mind to protect your sensitive information.
1. Search Safely
One way to protect yourself online is to avoid clicking links in emails and text messages from retailers. Instead, navigate directly to their site by typing the web address into the browser address bar or use a search engine (like Google) to search for the retailer’s site.
Next, verify you are on the retailer's legitimate site (no typos, weird logos, etc.). Cybercriminals often set up fake websites to trick users and steal personal information. Telltale signs of a secure website will show "https://" or a padlock icon before the web address. Avoid the website if you see the message "not secure" before the web address and avoid downloading apps that look suspicious or are not from a trusted website.
2. Protect Your Password
When creating accounts online, it’s important to use unique passwords per portal in case your password is compromised. If your password is the same across multiple platforms, cybercriminals can more easily access other accounts of yours. If your login information is compromised, you should change that password as soon as possible.
Password complexity matters. Use strong passwords that contain 15 or more characters composed of letters, numbers and special characters that are not easy for someone to guess. You can also create a passphrase, a sentence-like combination of words that is stronger than passwords. One benefit to using a passphrase is that it is usually easier to remember and more difficult for scammers to solve.
Keep up with your passwords by using a password manager app to store your passwords. A password manager is an encrypted digital vault that securely stores your login credentials. In addition to keeping your login credentials safe, many password managers can also be used to create strong, unique passwords.
3. Shop Securely
Avoid making online purchases over public Wi-Fi. Your bank account or credit card information could be vulnerable to cybercriminals. When possible, wait to make your purchase until you can use a private and secure connection. You can also enable privacy settings in your web browser or mobile device to limit the amount of personal information shared with third parties. Some of the available options include private browsing, controlling activity logs and deleting cookies.
4. Check Out Confidently
Before you enter your debit or credit card information, look for Trust Seals (or Secure Site Seals) on the retailer’s website. Retailers display these seals, granted by security entities, in a prominent location (homepages, login pages, checkout pages, etc.) to let visitors know their site is secure.
Approach each online shopping experience with these tips in mind to help safeguard your purchase and protect your personal data.
Kristine Stinson is cybersecurity guru and an information security engineer for Simmons Bank. Disclosures: The views in this article are those of Kristine individually and do not necessarily reflect those of Simmons Bank. All accounts subject to approval. Simmons Bank, Member FDIC.