Money & Business

Cybersecurity Group Shares How To Safely Shop Online

By / Dec 1, 2015 (iStock/Thinkstock)

As people flock to their computers, tablets, and mobile devices to purchase holiday gifts, the National Cyber Security Alliance is reminding shoppers of the importance of cyber hygiene and offering tips on how to protect themselves.

As exclusive deals flood the inboxes of Americans this holiday shopping season, groups like the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) are advising online shoppers to take precautionary steps [PDF] to protect their identities and pocketbooks. Online sales are predicted to increase between 6 and 8 percent—as much as $105 billion this year—according to the National Retail Federation. But with a rise in online shopping comes a rise in online scammers, NCSA warns.

It’s not uncommon for shoppers to think they won’t be targeted because they believe they have nothing of value, NCSA Executive Director Michael Kaiser told Associations Now. “They don’t understand the value of their information to other people,” Kaiser said. “[P]eople need to be a little more protective of their online persona.”

To stay safe online this shopping season, NCSA has a few tips:

Use a secure connection. Don’t share personal or financial information over an unsecured network or a connection that doesn’t require a password for access. It’s safer to use a phone’s 3G or 4G connection than an unsecured wireless network. Ensure a site encrypts your information as well.

Update security software. “We hope, of course, virtually everyone is running a security software program and keeping it up to date,” Kaiser said, regardless of whether an individual is using a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Be suspicious. Cybercriminals often use fake online advertisements through email and social networks to compromise a shopper’s computer. If a deal looks suspicious, or sounds too good to be true, it probably is, according to Kaiser. He added that scammers use social engineering to take advantage of shoppers and get people to do and respond to things they wouldn’t normally do.

One technique that scammers use is panic. For example, a scammer may send out a phishing email to millions saying there is a problem with their order, the credit card payment didn’t go through, or that a fake shipping company can’t deliver the order. If people get an email saying a package won’t arrive in time for Christmas, panic sets in and they may click on the suspicious link right away.

Limit what you share. “Personal information is like money,” Kaiser said. “You should value it and protect it.” Only provide information needed to complete a purchase. Kaiser also recommends shoppers read a website’s privacy policy so they know how their information will be used, stored, and shared, as well as what control they have over their data.

Protect your money. Use a safe payment option like a credit card to purchase items—never send cash through the mail or use a money-wiring service. Shoppers should review credit card statements to ensure there aren’t any unauthorized charges. If a shopper spots a discrepancy, they should call their bank and report it immediately.

Katie Rucke

Katie Rucke is former Associate Editor for Associations Now. More »

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