Be Wary of Internet Trolls When Online Shopping

Be Wary of Internet Trolls When Online Shopping

It’s the time of year where even those who wouldn’t be caught dead at the mall have the occasion to shop. Pretty much everyone finds themselves in need of gifts for family, friends, and coworkers, Secret Santa exchanges, silly White Elephant games, or party favors or hostess gifts. The amount of time that can go into searching for and purchasing all of these presents can really add up, and with the many other obligations that arise during the holidays on top of everyday life, many people find online shopping the fastest and easiest way to get all of their holiday shopping done.

In this day and age, most people have at least some experience with online shopping, and for some, it is the only way they buy things. In general, online shopping is a secure and convenient way to quickly purchase anything you need in the comfort of your home or from your phone while on the go. However, particularly around the holidays where more people than ever are shopping online, there are a few things to be mindful of to protect yourself and your bank accounts.

First, shop from trusted websites. It can be tempting to run Google searches to look for an item you want at a much cheaper price from a site other than Amazon, eBay, or a major retail store, but purchasing from unfamiliar websites can run the risk of hacking and malware. Strange site addresses, inability to find a legitimate way to contact customer service, poor design, and prices that just seem way too good to be true can all be signs that you should steer clear of typing any personal or credit card information into the site. You are better off sticking to known sites and marking alerts for price drops in items to help find the best deals. In the end, you may pay more for that coat or electronic device, but you can have peace of mind that your identity is secure and you can contact a reliable representative from the company if you have any issues with your orders. 

Do not use a debit card when making purchases online, use a credit card instead. This will reduce the ability of anyone who may wrongfully obtain your information to actually access your bank account. Instead, you can monitor your credit card statement and quickly dispute any charges you do not recognize. The credit card company will assist you in investigating, and you will not be liable for fraudulent purchases. Disputing fraudulent charges on a debit card is more difficult and riskier to you, as it is your money that has been taken rather than the bank’s, and withdrawals of large sums can put you in a bad spot financially, even if you are eventually able to recover the money.

On a similar note, keep a close eye on your credit card. Sometimes purchases may take time to show up on your statement, but regularly checking between the purchases that you have made and the charges on your credit card will help alert you to a potentially fraudulent purchase. Addressing potential fraud as soon as possible will help prevent additional theft or further use of your card and information.

Be careful of the information that the website is asking in order for you to make a purchase. Anything other than your payment information and an address to ship the items to can be a red flag. Websites certainly do not need your social security number or birthdate to complete an online purchase. You should also be wary of sites that require extensive set-ups of accounts or make you click through emails or other websites, especially pop-ups, in order to make a purchase. These can indicate phishing schemes.

Finally, think about where you want your packages delivered and whether extra security measures should be taken for any particular item you are purchasing. While leaving packages on your front porch from time to time may be no concern for you during most of the year, the holidays are a great time for someone to snatch a few items due to the larger volume of deliveries and better chance that something expensive is contained in the box. Consider having valuable items shipped to an office address or requiring a signature for delivery. You can also try to schedule deliveries to a day when you are certain someone will be home, like a Saturday morning. Having some friendly conversations with trusted neighbors can also help you each to keep an eye on the other’s porches and stay alert to suspicious activities.

Taking a few extra precautions while doing your holiday shopping online can help you keep peace of mind over your purchasing and prevent the unlikely, but highly stressful and inconvenient, incidence of identity theft or credit card fraud.

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

Today's blog: Nearly all of us shop for at least one Christmas gift online, and hackers know this! Read the blog today for some tips on the safest online practices when buying those gifts for your loved ones.