NBSB Gives tips for Staying Safe while shopping online

‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, and amid COVID-19, shopping online has become second nature to many of us. However, this is the time to keep your eyes open and use extreme caution when purchasing those holiday gifts or even groceries online. Although it is always possible to have your information compromised online, the risk is much greater with the holiday season in full swing. Often times, people are rushing to get that gift they want or even opt to use a non-trusted or unsecure website to purchase a unique gift. Follow these tips to help keep your personal information safe this holiday season.


Beware of holiday ads, deals or direct messages:

I am sure you have noticed the influx of ads we now see while shopping online. Sometimes those ads seem like great deals. But beware of these standalone ads, or even direct emails or texts offering a great deal on an item or service. Always go to the merchant’s site directly instead of clicking on links in an email or advertisement that could install malicious viruses on your computer or phone.


The “Too Good To Be True”:

Like all things, if it seems too good to be true, it most likely is. So, think twice when you see the advertisement for that special price on a gift you have been trying to find or anything stating a sense of urgency like “act now”. We can all be guilty of furiously hopping from website to website trying to find that best deal, just make sure when you find yours, it is directly from the merchant you want to buy from.


Secure Sites Only:

Use only secure sites when shopping online. The easiest way to tell if a site is secure is to check the web address bar. Look for a web address that starts with “Https”. The S in Https stands for “Secure”. These websites mask data you share and help protect your personal information.


Beware of Public Wi-Fi:

Public Wi-Fi is, well, public. Nothing on a public network is protected in any way. It is best that if you are getting ready to start your holiday shopping or even signing into your online banking, that your local coffee shop or restaurant may not be the best place to set up shop. Using your home Wi-Fi network or the data on your phone instead of public Wi-Fi will greatly increase the security of the information you put into those sites, such as credit card info, residential address and more that you don’t want strangers getting their hands on.


Payment Methods:

Even when following ALL the tips above, it is still possible for these next-level hackers to obtain your information. The best bet when shopping online is to use an alternative payment method to your regular debit card. Using a mobile wallet service like Google®/Apple Pay® or Venmo® is a much more secure way to purchase gifts this holiday season. This also may provide an additional layer of protection for your bank account information.

If you must use a debit card, then do not let the website save payment information. The last thing you want is to save your bank account or debit card information to a website that you maybe use once per year, putting a horrifying spin on the “set it and forget it” phrase.


Shipping & Delivery Safety:

Two new elements of risk have been brought to the online shopping realm; the first, porch pirates, or folks who observe your schedule and the schedule of packages being delivered and boldly grab them right off your front porch! With the recent popularity of home safety equipment such as security cameras or video doorbells have put a spotlight on these pirates, spreading the word and allowing you to prepare yourself for what’s ahead. Consider using the secured locker option for delivery, where you can pick the item up yourself at specific locations, or you can request the package be signed for, which means the shipping company would not deliver it until they obtain a signature from someone who lives there. The other risk is of course, digital. Recently hackers have been able to send spoof text messages and emails, designed to look like they come from FedEx® or UPS®, usually with a link to “track your package” or notify you of a delayed delivery. These messages are dangerous and if clicked on, can infect your computer with a variety of viruses. To look at shipping or delivery details, it is best to go directly to the site you purchased from or use you tracking number to track it directly through FedEx®, UPS® etc.


After the shopping is done:

You have crossed everyone off your list and the holiday shopping is finally finished! Unfortunately, you are not done there. Continue to monitor your accounts closely after the holidays. With many of us spending a lot more then we usually do, or even making more purchases than normal and especially with the new websites we have used, it is very important to keep a close eye on your bank accounts and credit card statements. Sometimes, it is after the fact that your card can be compromised through a website and with so many purchases going through in a short period of time, you will want to watch out for unplanned expenses. Make sure to keep your check book register up to date so that you can have a checklist to reference when those charges start to hit your accounts. If you notice something that is not right reach out to your bank or credit card company right away.


The more you know:

With the recent supply chain issues trickling down and causing disruption of many gifts purchased through online shopping, take a moment, and consider your local small businesses. It is safe to say that these local shops can offer unique gifts, support your local economy, eliminate or reduce shipping costs and reduce some of the risk that comes with shopping during the holiday season.