At this time of year, everyone is furiously trying to finish up holiday shopping.
The vast majority of us are doing at least some of our shopping online. Even if we end up actually buying at a local store, chances are good that we’re still using our mobile devices to research and our credit cards to pay.
These convenient digital lives of ours, however, expose us to many risks, including theft of our property, information and even identities.
With this in mind, here are seven simple tips for safe holiday shopping:
1. Paying online? Use valid payment services
If you’re actually buying items online, make sure when the moment of truth arrives that you’re using the site’s secure payment method, or some other valid payment service, such as PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.
If you’re ever redirected to pay somewhere online that looks suspicious, reconsider the purchase.
2. Avoid accessing websites via ads
This time of year, ads are everywhere online, on social media and even in text messages. Be aware that cybercriminals are able to use fake ads and sites to steal your information.
Before you click through an ad to make a purchase, be sure the ad takes you to a legitimate page on a legitimate site that you’d be able to reach aside from the ad.
3. Verify that sites you visit are secure
Want to know how to verify a site is secure? It will appear with a lock icon in your browser address bar and/or its URL will begin with “https,” not just “http” – the “s” stands for “secure.”
Checking for this is simple, quick and will ensure that the site is using a security certificate to keep your information safe.
4. Beware public Wi-Fi and charging stations, and don’t connect to public devices
If you’re out shopping in public, it’s important to keep your devices safe by not exposing them to networks or other devices that could be accessed by others.
When you’re on a public network – in a mall or airport, for example – plugged into a public charging station, or connected via Bluetooth or USB to a public device such as a rental car, your device could be at risk.
5. Check credit card readers for tampering
It’s possible for criminals to modify credit card readers, allowing them to capture payment card information.
When you use your card at a store or even a gas pump, quickly check to make sure the reader doesn’t have any apparent physical damage or other signs of tampering.
6. Consider an RFID-blocking wallet or sleeve
You may use a payment card with technology called “Radio Frequency Identification” – “RFID.” Some see this technology as a risk, arguing that it opens you up to having your data “skimmed” by someone using an RFID reader from a distance without your knowledge.
Many RFID-blocking products are available and you may want to consider one of these.
7. Lock your devices and turn on location services
The final tip is perhaps the simplest: Make sure your devices are locked and your location services are turned on.
This way, in case you left a device behind or had one taken from you, it could not be accessed and would be able to be located later.
Making the Complex Simple
The holiday shopping season can be a joyous time of year, but it can also be dangerous. With these tips in mind, you can be confident that you and your digital information are much safer.