Security and Privacy When You’re Holiday Shopping Online
Many people shop online to avoid checkout lines during the holiday season. And these days, most of that shopping happens in the palm of our hand. Mobile commerce is projected to grow by almost 20% this year (#TikTokMadeMeBuyIt), and scammers are specifically targeting smartphone shoppers.
Luckily, there are things you can do to make your online shopping safer and more efficient. Learn how to harness the power of tools such as autofill and digital wallets to make online purchases as easy as pie (pumpkin or otherwise). Here’s your guide to staying secure this holiday season.
Source 1: InMobi. “2022 U.S. Holiday Shopping Playbook,” 2022
Source 2: FBI. “Ho, Ho, Ho, Holiday Scams,” 2021
“This password app is indispensable. It does much more than create and save passwords, but stores other information like credit cards, shopping receipts, bank info, etc.”
Holiday shopping tips from a cybersecurity expert
What’s the safest way to pay online?
When shopping online, it’s better to use a credit card rather than a debit card. Credit card companies are often more proactive about getting their money back if a fraudulent charge is made, but with a debit card, you’ll have to argue the case with your bank, and you could have more liability.
Payment sites like PayPal offer additional security layers with end-to-end encryption, 2-factor authentication (2FA), and purchase protection. And if you want to be extra secure, you can load up a prepaid card to use for your online shopping—that way, if the card is compromised, you’re only out of the money you put on it.
How do I know if a link in an email or text message is safe?
Phishing often increases during the holidays—scammers try to capitalize on the fact that more people are shopping online by sending fake emails or text messages citing “problems with your order” or “promotional coupons.”
As a rule, you should always think twice before opening a link. When you get an email or text message about an order, the best thing to do is to try to find the information yourself. For example, if a message cites a problem with your Amazon order, open your browser and log in to Amazon separately to check your account instead of clicking the link.
With phishing, a little extra caution can go a long way—cybercriminals try to create a sense of urgency, so people click without thinking. If you stay aware, you can avoid getting hooked.
Is it safe to make in-app purchases on social media?
Some in-app browsers, such as TikTok, have been under scrutiny this year for their potential security vulnerabilities. More companies and independent sellers are using social media as shopping platforms, and while this can be a fun way to browse and get gift ideas, these in-app browsers can also track your data. Opening links in a web browser is typically the safer option, especially if that browser is dedicated to privacy, such as DuckDuckGo, Brave, or Neeva.
How do I know if a coupon or sale is a good deal or bad news?
You’ve heard this one before: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. And deal scams are getting more clever. Scammers often create social media ads that point to fake storefronts, especially around the holidays. 40% of online shopping scams reported to the Better Business Bureau last year started on Facebook or Instagram, so it’s important to verify any coupons or promotions with the actual retailer.
If you’re unfamiliar with the company and can’t find information about them online, it’s probably not worth the risk.
What are the most common holiday scams to watch out for?
Non-delivery and non-payment scams are the two most common holiday shopping scams, according to the FBI.
These scams are just what they sound like: in a non-delivery scam, the items you “purchased” never show up because the scammer never had them in the first place. A non-payment scam is the flip side of this, where a cybercriminal (or other Grinch) orders something but doesn’t pay for it, leaving the seller to foot the bill.
In addition to shopping scams, charity scams tend to increase during the holidays as cybercriminals try to take advantage of the season of giving. If you receive a call or an email about donating to a charity, make sure you pause before making a gift—it’s always safest to research the organization and donate through a vetted source instead of giving right there and then.
How can a password manager streamline my shopping?
A password manager is the best way to secure and store your data. This is particularly useful for online shopping—your login details autofill in a snap, and with your credit card number safely stored in the app, you won’t even need to get off the couch and hunt for your wallet. Since the holidays often come with new tech toys and online services, a password manager makes it easy to create unique passwords and securely store all those new logins, keys, and PINs.
Share your secure online shopping smarts
One-sheet: Six Ways to Make Your Online Shopping More Secure and Convenient
Everyone in your circle deserves to have a safe, easy, fraud-free holiday. Grab our free downloadable tips for staying safe during the holiday season and share them with friends, family, or coworkers.
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—Keigan Lobin, Chrome Store