How many of you have already started your holiday shopping? ¬†Counting today, there are only 9 Friday’s left until Christmas!!
Online shopping is becoming more and more popular. ¬†Black Friday deals, Cyber Monday sales, holiday bargains and FREE shipping are all wonderful ways to save, but the potential for risk is very real.
Lately we have heard of major retailers’ servers being compromised, which could include your credit card data and lead to fraudulent charges or having your identity stolen. ¬†What are some ways to protect yourself? It’s actually fairly easy. ¬†Follow these tips to keep your accounts safe!
Secure your payments
Credit card fraud is not fun to deal with.¬†What you may¬†not know is that you¬†are shielded from liability for unauthorized transactions made with credit cards via the combination of federal law issuer/card network policy.¬† As a result, financial institutions and merchants assume responsibility for most of the money lost as a result of fraud.
You can purchase “throw away” debit cards at most retailers that can be used online. ¬†Load them up with a balance and when you are done, close the account¬†and cut up the card. You can do this as many times as necessary. ¬†Some cards will charge a fee to activate or a per transaction fee, so carefully read the information that comes with the card prior to purchasing.
Gift cards for many retailers are available at stores you already shop in and most can be used for online purchases. ¬†I like to purchase gift cards at my local grocery store, because I earn “points” that I can use to get a discount on my gas purchases. ¬†This is a double-win for me! ¬†Check your local grocery store to see if they offer a similar program.
PayPal and other online money retailers allow you to use your money without having to provide your credit card and offers additional fraud protection if you happen to not receive your merchandise. This is a great way to pay for purchases
from smaller online stores that may sell hand-crafted or unique items. ¬†You may also find that smaller retailers in malls and at vendors at smaller events also accept an electronic payment.
Watch your email box for a confirmation email that provides you with a total charged and make sure it matches the amount you are expecting to pay. ¬†Keep an eye on the bank or credit card accounts you are using and watch for charges you haven’t authorized. ¬†If you should see something suspicious, contact your bank right away and ask for more information on the charge and if not a valid charge, start the dispute process or file a fraud claim. ¬†Many times this will require shutting down the card or account which freezes your money and stops your shopping in it’s tracks.
Amazing deal emails?
Phishing is described as “the process¬†where¬†a targeted individual is contacted by¬†email or telephone by someone posing as¬†a legitimate institution to¬†lure the individual into providing sensitive information such as banking information, credit card details,¬†and passwords. The personal information is then used to access the individual‚Äôs account and¬†can result in¬†identity theft¬†and financial loss.” according to Phishing.org.
So what does that mean to you? Can you trust that email from a big name retaiiler that looks just like all of their emails? ¬†The answer is: ¬†MAYBE. ¬†Your best bet is to hover over the link (don’t click it) and see where it is going to take you. ¬†Does the name of the site match the name of the retailer that the email came from? ¬†If so, chances are you are receiving a legit email with a legit deal. ¬†Not sure? ¬†Don’t click the link and open your browser and type the name of the company’s website in directly to the address bar. ¬†Most have a tab that shows their sales and specials or you can search for the product/item you are interested on their site and the sale info will typically be displayed. ¬†Proceed with your purchase using that gift card or throw away debit card and mark that gift off your list.
Does that deal look too good to be true? ¬†It probably is. ¬†While it may look exactly like the name brand you have been eyeing, chances are it is a knock-off using the real product’s images. You can search the name of the retailer offering this incredible deal to see if there are any online reviews.
So now that you have your gift or debit cards loaded and ready, you whip out your phone and start shopping…right? ¬†Not a great idea. ¬†Most phones just don’t have the security and protection afforded by your computer, so use your phone to find all the great deals and then do the actual purchases from your home computer. ¬†I do this quite a bit on Google’s Chrome, since my phone and desktop will sync and I can go back through my history to see the sites I found on my phone and just click to get right back to it and complete my purchase from my computer.
Virus protection, firewall and spyware protection must be up-to-date. These are usually automatically updated, but if you are planning a marathon shopping session, take a moment to ensure the databases are up-to-date. ¬†Don’t ignore any messages indicating a site you are on is not safe – it’s there for a reason. ¬†If you have questions about why a site is being listed as unsafe, contact the software provider that is providing the message for more info.
Look for the “https” in the browser’s address bar or the little closed lock symbol. ¬†HTTPS is¬†HyperText Transport Protocol Secure, which is the same as “http” but uses a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) for security purposes.
Don’t use an unprotected/open/free WiFi connection to shop. It’s relatively easy to lock down your home WiFi and this keeps people from ‘borrowing’ your connection as well.
Using SargesList to look for gifts or to list your hand-made gifts¬†is a great idea. ¬†While we would¬†like to believe that people are good and have good intentions, the news tells us differently. SargesList¬†provides a place for people to connect and not all intentions will be honorable. If you are dealing with anyone, no matter if they are military or not, we recommend that you keep these precautions top of mind to protect yourself and your family. Click HERE to read our Safety Precautions for using our site. ¬†HAPPY SHOPPING!