If you participated in Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving during which retailers offer exclusive deals and sales for online purchases only, you weren’t alone. Shoppers spent $3.45 billion this past Monday, an increase from 2015’s high of $2.29 billion. And though Cyber Monday is a massive sales day, for most it’s merely a kickoff to the holiday shopping season, with many continuing to buy gifts all through December. But with more and more customers flocking to online sites for their gift shopping, the holiday season can also be peak season for cyber theft.
Here are a few ways to stop creating easy access for hackers while still shopping for the gifts you need from your computer or mobile device. Share these tips with your loved ones to keep them safe!
- Opening emails from sites you don’t recognize. This is especially dangerous if you are clicking on the links included in these foreign emails. Oftentimes, hackers will send emails with links that direct to phishing sites, fake webpages built to steal your personal information. Either delete emails from unrecognized senders right away or, if you’re interested in opening, search the sender in a new tab to investigate rather than clicking on any links within the email.
- Shopping on public or unprotected networks. It’s one thing to browse the sales during your work lunchbreak. It’s quite another to enter in your personal information to make a purchase while at lunch on the restaurant’s public Wi-Fi, where hackers can easily find their way into your computer or phone. Keep your shopping to secure Wi-Fi only, like closed networks such as your home or work. If you need to use pubic internet, download shields such as AnchorFree Hotspot Shield, which hides your IP address while you’re online.
- Using your debit card for purchases. Since debit cards link straight to bank accounts, it is much easier for hackers to steal your information and clean out your bank account and any accounts linked to it. However, if your credit card information gets stolen, you don’t lose any of your money. Simply report the card as stolen, receive a credit on your statement and the issue will never touch your bank account.
Though online shopping can put you at a higher risk for theft, there are ways to combat against it and still score the holiday deals. Here are a few suggestions of way to shop safe online.
- Create tougher passwords. When using accounts on online stores instead of selecting the option to check out as a guest, make sure your passwords are long, complicated and not easy to guess. Use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers to keep hackers from guessing the passwords to your accounts.
- Pick up a laptop. According to a recent survey, nearly half of all consumers believe their smartphones are less secure than their computers. And they’re right to think so. Put simply, even with secure apps and protected networks, it’s easier for cyber thieves to access your information via mobile devices than laptops or desktop computers, usually thanks to non-updated security settings on phones and tablets.
- Use a security app for mobile shopping. Mobile devices are usually more convenient to shop on than computers, but it’s important to make sure the security programs and apps are being used to protect your information. One survey found that though it’s younger generations doing the bulk of mobile online shopping, 44 percent of people age 50 and older have downloaded a security feature or app onto their smartphones to protect against theft while using their phone for online shopping. Among 18-29 year-olds, just 38 percent have such an app or protection downloaded. Downloading a shield apps onto your phone or tablet can be the best barrier between your information and hackers. We suggest SurfEasy for Android or Hotspot Shield VPN for iOS.
We’d love to hear from you. What do you think are the best steps to take to make sure online shopping is secure? How could consumers better protect their information from cyber theft? Leave us a comment below.