Guard your wallet when you're shopping online

Published November 17, 2016

Oh, how we love to shop online!

No crowds, no lines, no driving in circles searching for a parking space at the mall.

Since the Monday after Thanksgiving became known as Cyber Monday, online shopping has boomed. Consumers bought a record $4.45 billion online during Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday last year, and they’re expected to spend even more this year.
 
Shopping online doesn’t come without risks, however. While you’re buying, criminals could steal your card and personal information. To help keep you safe on Cyber Monday and anytime you're online, we recommend you take the following precautions:
  • Buy from someone you know. Now’s not the time to punch your credit card number into a site you’ve never heard of, says Brenton Paulsen, a developer here at Maps Credit Union. Use known sites such as Amazon, eBay, or the websites of major retailers such as Walmart and Nordstrom. “Without a doubt I feel better about them having my personal and billing information than get-cheap-clothes.net,” adds Paulsen. “If get-cheap-clothes.net has a deal that you just can’t pass up, look for a checkout with Amazon or PayPal – which limits the exposure of your personal information and gives you recourse if something goes wrong.”
  • Pay with plastic. “Use safe payment options,” says StaySafeOnline.org, a website sponsored by the National Cyber Security Alliance, a nonprofit that promotes cybersecurity, privacy education and awareness. “Credit cards are generally the safest option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered.”
  • Make sure the site is secure. You can do that by checking to see if “HTTPS” (also known as Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure) is in in the address bar, says StaySafeOnline.org. Also look for a padlock in the address bar; that represents an HTTPS connection, too.
  • Protect your email. Your email is packed with personal details, such as your contacts, calendar, maybe even your Social Security number. And because so many websites use your email to re-set a password – it can render even strong passwords useless, says Paulsen. “If you do nothing else – turn on two-factor authentication for your email,” he says. “It makes your email virtually unhackable.”
  • Guard what you've got. Make sure to require a password, PIN, or fingerprint to open your accounts. Don’t make it easy for someone to take what’s yours.
“Cybercrime is a constant threat and occupation for some,” says Paulsen. “It’s important to always be safe.”