As the temperatures drop and the snow starts falling, our hearts fill with holiday cheer. You can avoid the inevitable last-minute gift scramble by beginning your holiday shopping now! 


People are turning to online shopping now more than ever before.  Although some significant advantages come with holiday shopping on your favorite websites, it’s a good idea to develop a proactive cybersecurity strategy to ensure your protection from common scams.  


Keep your privacy, data, and finances secure by following these tips! 


Consider using a prepaid credit card for your purchases 

Paying with a prepaid credit card is one way to protect your finances when shopping online.  This strategy is effective because you are not giving out your real credit or debit card information to the retailer.  You use the prepaid card as a payment, similar to cash.  

If your prepaid card information is compromised, fraudulent charges will not be held against you.  This is because you have already paid for the card.  You are not borrowing money as you would with a credit card.  

Additionally, most prepaid cards have fraud protection features built-in, so you can rest assured that your purchase is safe. 


Make use of a virtual card 

Virtual cards are digital imitations of your regular credit or debit card, providing an extra layer of protection for online shoppers.  A virtual card can be accessed through an app or you can link it to Apple Pay or Samsung Pay so that you can shop more conveniently. 

Your virtual card comes with a unique card number that’s different from your physical card, for added protection.  By not giving merchants and payment processors your primary card number, you’re significantly reducing the chance of fraud.  

To use your funds as securely as possible online, always use your virtual card when shopping virtually.  


Be wary of unfamiliar retail sites   

While an online purchase from an unfamiliar retailer might seem like a great idea (especially if they have adorable holiday stocking stuffers), it, unfortunately, opens you up to the risk of scams and identity theft. 

When shopping online, always buy from reputable retailers who have a history of excellent customer service.  With technology advancements, anyone can create a halfway decent website in just a few days.  If you buy from an unknown retailer, it can be risky. 

Before you finalize any purchases, please investigate the company to see if they’re reputable.  You can check online reviews, see if they have a social media presence, and conduct a quick web search to verify their address.  

Another safety measure you can take is looking at the URL- it should start with ‘HTTPS://.’ The additional ‘s’ stands for secure, meaning your provided information will be encrypted.  These steps are vital in ensuring digital safety. 


Avoid the use of public Wi-Fi   

Although most of us know to be cautious with our personal information, many people need to be aware that using public Wi-Fi networks can be very dangerous.  

The free Wi-Fi network at your favorite coffee shop may not be as secure as you think.  Without much effort, someone could monitor your internet activity over an unsecured network, giving them access to all your data and payment information. 

Avoid shopping online unless you’re at home or connected to a secure network. 

If you must shop on a public network, connect to a VPN for encrypted and protected payment information.  Also, use a virtual card instead of your primary card number as an extra security measure. 


Regularly check your card activity   

Although we’re all careful shoppers, many of us have fallen victim to scams.  The good news is that most credit cards offer a zero-liability policy, so you’re not responsible for any fraudulent charges. 

Checking your card activity regularly is key to reporting and settling any disputed charges in a timely manner. 

Keep your financial health in check this holiday season by monitoring your card balance and activity weekly.  If you see any unauthorized charges, quickly lock your account, then reach out to customer support for help.


Select strong passwords   

Creating strong passwords and changing them frequently is a crucial frontline defense in protecting your personal information.  The same should be true of your online shopping account passwords.  

Here are a few suggestions for creating strong and unique passwords:  

  • Use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers 
  • Make it at least eight characters long 
  • Avoid using dictionary words or easily guessed phrases 
  • Don’t use personal information like your name, address, or date of birth 


Ensure fully up-to-date anti-virus protection 

We all know we need anti-virus protection, but how many of us have it?  

Outdated anti-virus software is one of the most significant security risks.  If your computer doesn’t have comprehensive, up-to-date anti-virus protection, you’re putting yourself at risk of malware and viruses.  

You could also open the door for cybercriminals to access your personal information.  Before you do any online shopping, make sure that your anti-virus software is fully up to date.  This critical step will help protect your computer- and your wallet- from any potential threats. 


Beware of unsolicited emails

Phishing scams are one of the most commonly seen types of online fraud.  

These scams typically involve an email or message that closely resembles a legitimate source, like a bank or retailer.  

The message will often include a sense of urgency, like claiming suspicious activity on your account.  A link is often included in the email.  

Once you click the link, you’re taken to a fake website carefully designed to look like the real thing.  Then, you’re asked to input personal information, such as your credit card number or social security number. 

Please don’t fall for it!  Unsolicited emails may contain dangerous links; don’t click on them!  Never input your personal information unless you’re 100% sure the website is legitimate.   

If you’re ever unsure, contact the company directly to confirm.  


Stay safe with smart shopping 

With many people turning to online shopping for holiday gifts, please be extra vigilant about protecting your personal and payment information.  Shopping should be fun and stress-free — keeping an eye on your info will help make sure it is! 

For tips on staying secure while shopping online this holiday season, contact the experts at Centriworks.  We’re ready to help you stay safe and sound this holiday season. 

Happy holidays!