Holiday shopping is in full swing, so here are few tips about how to stay safe online while buying gifts for everyone on your list.
Keep An Eye On Your Bank Statements
Your first line of defense against identity theft and fraud is to pay close attention to your financial records, like bank statements and credit card transactions. You can usually follow this data up-to-the-minute online. Be sure to flag any suspicious activity, such as being charged for a purchase you didn't make, and contact the institution immediately.
Set Up Alerts In Online Banking
Royal accounts feature the ability to personalize alerts and get notified within seconds for account activity such as low or high balances, deposits, and withdrawals. These alerts will help keep you aware of any unusual activity so you can promptly take action.
Do Not Shop On Public Wi-Fi
Public wi-fi and computers are convenient and sometimes necessary to use. However, public wi-fi is not very secure – you shouldn't ever shop online or access important accounts while connected to public wi-fi. If you must buy a few gifts online while away from your home or work network, try to use a VPN (virtual private network) or mobile hotspot.
Be Wary Of Phishing
Fraudsters often utilize phishing emails, text messages, and phone calls to trick you into clicking on links and providing sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and account numbers to gain access to your accounts. During the holidays, there is an increase in fraudulent messages that appear to come from a reputable delivery company. Instead of clicking on those links, go directly to the service website and enter the tracking number or track your order through the merchant to check the status.
Watch Out For Scams When Buying Gift Cards
When buying gift cards for those on your list, make sure you are purchasing them from a reputable retailer and avoid “discount” gift card sales on social media or calls/texts from “retailers” pressuring you to purchase from them. Watch out for deals that are too good to be true, such as a $100 gift card on sale for $50. Royal Credit Union offers prepaid gift cards to make your holiday shopping easier and safer.
Know How Much Items Should Cost
When shopping online, have a general sense of how much the items you want to buy should cost. Not only will that make you a comparison shopper extraordinaire, but you can also get a sense if an online store has prices that are too good to be true or if the item is marked up far more than usual. These pricing issues should also prompt you to do more research about the retailer. Looking for reviews about the seller and checking several different websites can help protect you from ending up with an item that doesn't match the description, a counterfeit item, or not receiving an item at all!
Beware Of Grinch Bots
Last year, a record number of so-called "Grinch Bots" were recorded. These are automated programs that quickly buy up popular toys, sneakers, or other items and then resell the item for a huge mark-up to real people. Buying supposedly new items on a resale market can open you up to an increased risk of fraud and counterfeit goods. The best way to defang Grinch Bots is to refuse to buy from them and to only buy items from vendors you can verify.
Avoid Sharing More Than What’s Necessary
While you need to share data to make a purchase online, you should be wary of any retailer that is requesting more information than you feel comfortable sharing. You may not need to fill out every field during the ordering process, and you shouldn't if you don't want to. If an online store requires you to share more information than you want, find another retailer!
Make A Cybersecurity List, Check It Twice
Give yourself the gift of peace of mind by following these important steps:
- Protect each account with a unique, complex password that is at least 12 characters long – and use a password manager!
- Use multifactor authentication (MFA) for any account that allows it.
- Turn on automatic software updates or install updates as soon as they are available.
- Know how to identify phishing attempts and report phishing or spam messages.
Learn more online safety tips at Online Safety + Privacy Basics - National Cybersecurity Alliance (staysafeonline.org) or check out the rest of our articles!