Although most shoppers gear up and focus on Black Friday, Cyber Monday offers tons of hot deals to online shoppers. It began in 2005 and quickly became one of the biggest online shopping days of the year. On average, online shopping increases by 16% (worth more than $760 million dollars) on this one day alone!
Shoppers find the appeal in avoiding parking lots at malls, bustling stores and frantic holiday crowds. While it is very convenient, you can also be putting yourself at greater risk for identity theft and credit card fraud if you are not careful. In any situation there are steps you can take to protect yourself and make it easier to detect fraud if you become a victim. If you protect yourself, I feel that you are safer shopping online than in person (where about 15% of identity theft takes place).
Protect Yourself Online on Cyber Monday
Here are a few steps to take to protect yourself on Cyber Monday:
- Never Shop on a Public Wi-Fi Connection – Although you may trust the baristas at your local coffee shop, you can’t always trust the person sitting next to you. Hackers can easily tap into Wi-Fi connections at public hot spots to steal your identity information. This can be especially dangerous when you are making purchases with your credit card on unsecured connections. Always wait until you are on a land line (Ethernet cable) at a location you trust – I recommend making purchases at home.
- Monitor Your Accounts – While you are doing a lot of shopping – online and in the store – it is good to keep an eye on your bank and credit card accounts. Match your receipts up to your statement to make sure that they are correct and there are no fraudulent charges. Keep an eye out for small charges, sometimes that is how crooks test to make sure they have a good card. For convenience, set up credit card account alerts that automatically email or text you every time you make a purchase. It makes detecting fraud a snap.
- Only Shop on Trusted Websites – Don’t just let the search engine pick the site for you, make sure you are using a trusted and well-known website. Type in the direct web address for the stores you are familiar with, and don’t shop on price alone.
- Read the Reviews – When shopping on Ebay or Amazon for gifts this season, read the reviews of the actual seller. While the site may be credited with security, purchasers may have had problems in the past that you want to know about before you buy from them. Only shop on Craigslist if you have extensive experience avoiding online fraud.
- Look for Signs They are Protecting Your Data – On the Web page where you enter your credit card or other personal information, look for an “s” after http in the Web address of that page and a secured padlock (as shown below). Encryption is a security measure that scrambles data as it travels through the Internet.
- Keep Your Web Browser Updated – Internet Explorer 7 and 8 provide another layer of protection with Web sites that use Extended Validation (EV) Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificates. The address bar turns green and has both https and the closed padlock. Make sure that when your computer is asking you to update your software you don’t ignore the requests.
Remember, the faster you detect Identity Theft the easier it is to clean it up. Always be aware of what is on your credit report and your bank statements, as crooks rely on our lackadaisical attitude to continue their crooked ways.
Originally published in 2010