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Holiday online shopping safety: 7 ways to stay secure

What we'll cover

  • How to buy gifts with security in mind

  • How to keep your devices safe

  • Best practices while online shopping

It's no secret that shopping online is more convenient than heading out in a snowstorm or standing in long lines to get your holiday gifts. It allows you to more easily compare products and prices, and you can find some great deals online during the holiday season. As you start to scour the internet for the latest deals, use these tips to help keep your personal information safe while you shop.

Shop from reputable retailers on secure sites

We get it: You're hoping to land the deal of the century this season. But no discount is worth becoming the victim of identity theft. To start, triple-check the sites you're buying from. Keep an eye out for these signs of a safe site:

  • URLs should start with HTTPS

  • Look for a trust seal (or lock symbol) next to the URL with the words "secure" or "verified"

If the site doesn't have these, click to close and find yourself another retailer.

You could also download your favorite retailers' verified apps from Google Play® or the Apple App Store®. They're much less likely to be compromised. Consider checking out as a guest to keep your sensitive information even more secure.

Look for a trust seal (or lock symbol) next to the URL with the words "secure" or "verified."

Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals

Watch out for door-buster deals listed on marketplace sites, which cybercriminals use to trick shoppers into giving up financial information. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid falling victim to these phishing scams by only shopping on reputable sites and report any suspicious messages you receive via text, email or push notifications. And as a reminder, never click on links from suspicious or unknown sources.

Update your software

The shopping you do online is only as safe as the device you're using. Be sure your security software, internet browser and operating system on your phone or computer are all up to date. Hackers look for weaknesses to exploit, so head them off by keeping your device's security software current.

Ensure your credit card contact information is up to date as well and consider setting up alerts to notify you of any charges that hit your account, or when charges meet a specific criterion.

Create strong passwords

Security experts have lots of tips for creating a strong password , but the more nonsensical it is, the better. That's because some cybercriminals use programs that can crack simple tricks, like replacing letters with similar-looking numbers. Use at least eight characters, a combination of letters and numbers, both lowercase and uppercase letters and include at least one special character (!@#?).

Check credit card statements regularly

The convenience of paying with a credit card can be irresistible, especially with all the extra expenses this time of year. But make sure you keep a close eye on your statements so you can spot any issues early.

Your bank may flag suspicious activity as well, but tracking your transactions can ensure nothing slips by. Bonus: It can also help you stay mindful of your spending and keep you on budget.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi

We've all snuck in some online shopping while on the bus or at the coffee shop. It's hard to pass up on the convenience, especially during this busy time of the year. But when possible, refrain from using public Wi-Fi.

While encryption has improved safety drastically in recent years, some municipal and corporate Wi-Fi networks are open (meaning you don't need a password to access them), leaving them vulnerable to hackers. Use your mobile data plan in public to stay on the safe side.

Tip: Watch out for shoulder surfers who may grab your private information.

Use secure payment methods

While most credit cards have security checks to quickly identify and stop fraudulent activity, you may be more comfortable using a mobile payment option like Zelle® or PayPal®. Whichever you choose, make sure it's from a trusted source, you verify all information before making any payments and it has the necessary safeguards in place to protect you and your financial information.

Keep your holiday holly, jolly and secure

As you start charting your end-of-the-year plans and mapping out all of your merry moments with family and friends, it's easy to get swept up in the spirit of the season. Stay vigilant so you can spread all of the cheer without setting yourself up for a security breach.

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