It’s December and many of us will have already started our Christmas shopping, but are you being secure online? It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of the festive season and start buying gift after gift for loved ones without really thinking about security.
Here are 10 tips to help you stay cyber secure online this Christmas:
When creating accounts with online retailers, make sure you use strong passwords, and different passwords for different sites. Passwords like ‘password123’ are weak and easy to guess – a hacker’s dream! It’s advised to create a password with approximately 8 characters, upper and lower case letters and a number.
Look for the secure checkout symbol when making payments, which is a padlock icon in the URL bar. This padlock symbol means that the website’s certificate is valid, so it is a trustworthy website. Ensure the website you are checking out of has ‘https://’ at the beginning of the URL, as the ‘s’ stands for secure. Using a secure payment system like PayPal where you can is also advised, as in case of scam or never received goods, PayPal will launch an enquiry and refund your money.
Avoid public WiFi
Free WiFi in places like coffee shops and shopping centres is more often than not unsecure, meaning your card details could get in the hands of the wrong person. If you see something you want to buy online while using public WiFi, save it until you’re using a secure network.
At this time of year you’re likely to receive tons of spam emails, and many of them use the names of official retailers to hook you in. If you’re being offered a discount or they ask you to fill out a survey to get a freebie, be cautious – it is most likely a scam – especially if you don’t shop with them. If in doubt, don’t click the link in the email but manually type in the official website in your browser to ensure you are taken to the actual website. Remember: if something seems too good to be true, it often is!
Update your software and security
Keep all your software and security up to date to avoid the possibility of infection from unreliable websites (and emails!). It’s worth checking your security is up to date before diving into your online shopping.
Website refund policy
Check the website policy for things like refunds, exchanges and shipping costs. The last thing you want is to receive something nothing like what was on the website, only to find you can’t get your money back, or for the shipping cost to be more than the value of the item you bought.
Check bank statements
Check your bank statements to ensure the right amount is debited from your account after a purchase, and no further charges are taken. After a first purchase, some companies (like Fabletics) automatically put you onto a monthly direct debit. It’s perfectly legal because they put it in the fine print before you purchase your item, and the monthly debit from your account is a subscription fee which you can use to order more products with, BUT if you aren’t aware of the direct debit and miss the offer, you will just be debited the money and won’t be able to receive any products. Read up before making your purchase, and keep an eye on your bank statements.
Keep confirmation emails and receipts
Save your confirmation and order number, and put any emailed receipts in a folder where you’ll be able to easily access them if needs be. Don’t delete receipts unless you have received the item and are happy with it, but even then they’re worth hanging on to (it’s a must to keep receipts for expensive items).
Stay eBay aware
If you’re using eBay, use your common sense. Too many people forget to read the description and are conned out of money by clever eBay sellers. We’ve all seen the examples – the man who bought an ‘air guitar’ and was not happy when he received an empty guitar case, and the countless people who thought they were buying game consoles but in the description it clearly stated they were only buying the box with no console. Read the description and look at the photos the seller listed. If the photo is poor quality or from a strange angle it’s probably because there is a problem with the item.
Install security on new tech
Once the Christmas rush is over and all the presents have been wrapped and then unwrapped, make sure to install relevant security software on any new technology you get, and if any children are lucky enough to get an iPad, computer, game console or smartphone, ensure to install parental control on the internet to increase their safety online.
Now you’ve got all the tips you need to prepare for online shopping, so stay savvy for your Christmas buys and in the future!