A lot of people turn to the internet to do their holiday shopping. There are also a lot of people who are waiting to take advantage of those online shoppers. Here are a few things you can do to help you stay safe while shopping:
1. Use a virtual account number. This is a service that most credit cards now offer. Here’s how it works: Log onto your credit card account and with one click you can generate a random credit card number that makes it virtually impossible for anyone to steal your account number while shopping online. When your virtual number is generated, simply enter it into the merchant’s form and complete your purchase without revealing your actual card number. This virtual credit card number is only valid for a short period of time-long enough for the retailer to process your transaction, which will be charged to your real credit card account. But if a retailer stores that number and a hacker later breaks into their system, the number will be useless. Please note: Virtual account numbers cannot be used for purchases that require you to show your credit card at time of pick-up (e.g., movie tickets, etc.), because the account numbers will not match.
2. Use a credit card instead of a debit card. Credit cards are much more secure than debit cards. You are protected for fraudulent purchases over $50. Additionally, your debit card is usually connected to your checking account so if someone steals your debit card information, they also have direct access to your checking account. A credit card protects you from that as well.
3. Make sure you’re shopping on a secure site. Look for the padlock icon or a URL that starts with https:// before entering any personal information. That means your transaction is secure.
4. Watch Out for Emails. This is the time of year where your email is getting bombarded with special offers. Incredible deals abound, just click this link…Don’t do it. Emails have an amazing way of looking like they’re coming from a reputable store but when you click the link, you’re taken to a website that just wants to steal your data.
If you see something you really like in an email, don’t click the link. Open your browser and go to the store’s website to see if they’re really offering that special. If so, use your credit card and order it. If not, delete the email. It was spam.
If you get an email from UPS, FedEX or USPS, be wary. They’ll tell you that your package was returned because it couldn’t be delivered and prompt you to click a link to find out why, or download and open an attachment. Don’t do it as that attachment or link will most likely contain a virus.
5. Keep Track of Your Purchases. Keep accurate records of your transactions. If you order online, print your receipts and keep them in a file. If you’re shopping in stores, keep your receipts and keep them in a file. That way you’ll have everything you need if a dispute arises, and it’s much easier to check your statements against the receipts when the statements come in the next month.