Holiday Consumer Safety 101

Hacker

Like everything else in 2020, holiday shopping is going to be more challenging than usual. 

Online buying may have its biggest year so far, and customers are also being urged to shop early to avoid delivery delays caused by backed-up orders.

This surge of internet shopping will undoubtedly encourage cybercriminals to step up their efforts to steal consumer information. The holidays are already one of the busiest seasons for data breaches, and hackers’ methods are always getting more sophisticated.

As an online consumer, protecting yourself is your first line of defense. With so many additional transactions this year, it’s a good time to review some basic guidelines for safe online shopping — both for over the holidays and the rest of the year, as well.

Use a Credit Card

While debit cards offer convenience, they are not as secure as credit cards for online transactions. Credit cards provide extra protection against fraud, and by law can only hold cardholders accountable for up to $50 in fraud cases while the case is resolved.

Debit cards directly access the user’s bank, so fraudulent activity could wipe out a shopper’s checking or savings account. And while most banks do offer protection against unauthorized transactions, it can take up to a month to resolve, leaving victims vulnerable at the worst time.

Protect Yourself Online

Although hackers will try hard to steal information this holiday season, by taking a few simple precautions you can protect yourself against many online attacks. Before you click to make a purchase, be sure to:

  • Make sure you’re on a legitimate, secure website. Check that your website is the one you think it is, and not an imposter site with a slightly misspelled name. Also, make sure the website starts with “https,” not just “http.” The “s” at the end means that you are on a secure, encrypted website.
  • Never click on a pop-up ad. While they may be offering excellent bargains, cybercriminals often employ bogus pop-ups to trick customers into giving out their financial information. Always place orders on a legitimate website, never a pop-up ad. 
  • Research the source. It’s exciting to find new websites offering bargains, but sometimes their offers are too good to be true. Do your research before entering credit or debit card numbers on a site you’ve never heard of. They could be a hacker phishing for financial information.

Secure Your Computer

Security is not just about keeping safe on websites. Your computer itself needs to be secure in order to ensure that your online shopping is safe and private. Be sure to:

  • Keep your browser up-to-date. Web browsers are always updating their products to safeguard against security threats. If you’re using an older version of a browser, you may be vulnerable. Always click “yes” when given the option to update your browser.
  • Make sure your device is free of viruses and malware. Some viruses maintain a low-key presence on computer hard drives, quietly collecting data and sending it to hackers. Make sure you use updated antivirus software to keep your computer clean.
  • Don’t auto-save passwords. While it’s very convenient, auto-saving passwords on your computer makes it easier for hackers to access your financial information. Try using a password manager to diversify and safeguard your passwords.

Stay Secure in Real Life, Too

While most online fraud begins on the internet, it can also start in the real world. Shoppers can secure themselves against cybercriminals by adhering to these safe practices:

  • Don’t shop while using public WIFI. Never enter personal information over a public network. They are among the simplest to hack and make for easy targets for cybercriminals. Use a personal or secured network instead.
  • Pay with a digital wallet. If you want to pay in person with your bank account but don’t want to use a debit card, try a digital wallet. Services like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Paypal directly access your bank account with added encryption for security. 
  • Watch out for real, physical hackers. Some cybercriminals get information by simply reading your PIN number over your shoulder at an ATM. Also, watch out for skimmers, which are devices attached to ATMs and other card readers that collect users’ financial information.

Watch for Data Breaches

Sometimes, in spite of all the precautions individuals take, information leaks anyway. Companies holding sensitive financial information can have data breaches, often leaving millions vulnerable to fraudulent transactions.

If you think this happened to you, Morgan & Morgan can help. We have filed some of the biggest data breach lawsuits in the country, including those against Equifax and Yahoo. 

If you suspect you may be the victim of a data breach, fill out our no-obligation case evaluation form and we will investigate.

So, before you go cybershopping for the holidays this year, take a minute to make sure that everything is as secure as possible. It will help keep you filled with good cheer, and not on the phone disputing fraudulent purchases.

By Staff

Writer