Cybercriminals like to get in the middle of our online transactions – let’s do our part to stop them
As consumers, we have a critical role in combating online fraud. We each need to do our part so that we don’t have to pay the price, quite literally (1), for the dastardly deeds of greedy cyber criminals seeking to exploit busy shoppers and take advantage of the chaos surrounding the holidays.
Thank you for taking a break from online shopping to read this post. Following the five online shopping safety tips we provide below, you can join the fight against fraud and protect yourself during this holiday season and beyond.
- Secure your Internet connection: It may be tempting to do some online shopping while waiting in line for your triple pump peppermint latte. Giving in to the coffee temptation is almost inevitable. But, if you succumb to the temptation to shop, avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi, as it can expose your personal information to cybercriminals. Instead, connect using a trusted mobile hotspot. If you must use public Wi-Fi, protect your data from spying eyes by using a virtual private network (VPN).
- Control access to your account: Did you know that many simple, weak passwords can be easily guessed or found online? Within minutes, a bad actor can access your account and pretend to be you. Fun for them. You, not so much. Using a unique, long, and complex password can make it harder for them to succeed. You can make it even more difficult by using a random/anonymous email address. If the retailers offer it, enabling multifactor authentication (MFA) on your accounts creates a triple whammy that many cybercriminals can’t overcome as the chances are slim they can get the MFA code they need to complete the login process, even if they do get their hands on your email and password.
- Safeguard your personal information: You have your random email and a unique, long, complex password set now, right? That’s great! Please do it again, again, and again; create a different password and pair it with a random email for each of the accounts you plan to shop with. Because the number of accounts you have will grow, consider using a password safe or vault to help you manage (instead of remembering) your passwords and random email addresses. Some vaults can even automatically enter the login information into the website or mobile app, making it easier, not harder, for you to keep your shopping spree going without jeopardizing your personal information.
- Limit the damage: If a cybercriminal can easily steal all your funds from your debit card in one fell swoop, a feeling of holiday joy can quickly turn to long-term anguish, especially when it comes time to pay your monthly mobile phone bill from an empty account. You can avoid this exposure by not using a debit card. Instead, use a credit card dedicated to online purchases. Consider using a prepaid or virtual credit card where transaction thresholds can be set, and the available funds can be proactively managed to match your expected shopping activity at any given time. If the cybercriminals do happen to get their hands on this card’s information, they can only steal what you purposefully left available on the card.
- Monitor your accounts: We get it. Getting that limited edition new toy before the deal expires at midnight is essential. The last thing on your mind is to check every transaction on your credit card. Suppose you genuinely can’t find the time. In that case, most banking institutions and credit card firms allow you to set up text/SMS alerts for your accounts so you can get notified when a card-not-present transaction is initiated, a transaction threshold is met, or a low balance bottom is reached. These alerts can be the difference between a one-off case and multiple fraudulent transactions.
Five steps; this should be easy to do. Please take a moment before shopping to apply as many of them as possible. If you can’t get to them all, using even one is better than shopping with none. Start with the first one and work your way down the list. With each tip, you’ll be better prepared to limit the impact of fraudulent activity if it occurs. Plus, your cards and accounts will be better protected from being compromised or taken over in the first place.
Moreover, these tips help you and contribute to the bigger picture, helping everyone thwart the cybercriminals before they can cause severe damage to you, the online retailers, and the financial institutions that make shopping online possible.
Thanks for doing your part to help stop cybercrime and fraud in its tracks this holiday season. Cheers to happy, safe shopping online!
1 – Cost of a Data Breach Report, page 4, IBM, July 2022