Online Shopping: 4 Must-Follow Safety Practices

Online shopping makes it easier than ever to shop for what you want and find exactly the right thing. You want the best products at the best prices, and shopping on your smartphone, computer or tablet allows you to do plenty of research and compare options before you buy.

But online shopping comes with risks, too. Before going on your next online shopping spree, stick to these four best practices to keep your information safe while making purchases over the internet.

1. Use Secure, Private Connections and Protect Your Devices

Never make purchases over an open Wi-Fi network. The information you transmit here may be visible to other users. It’s also really easy for hackers to set up fake Wi-Fi networks that look like the real thing. When you log on and use them, they can track your activity or capture sensitive data, like your credit card number.

Use encrypted Wi-Fi networks when you shop. Also look for website URLs that contain “https://.” That “s” in the URL stands for “secure,” and is more likely to keep your data safe than a website without this additional security.

You can protect the actual device you use to do your online shopping with, too. Always keep anti-virus software on computers, tablets and even smartphones up-to-date.

2. Maintain Strong Passwords and Consider Two-Factor Authentication

Is your password “password123?” Go change it, right now. (Seriously!) And while you’re at it, make sure you avoid anything on the list of most commonly used passwords for online accounts, according to Gizmodo.

You want to use strong passwords on any account that stores financial data and personal information. A random mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols is best. But that can get hard to remember, so you may also want to employ a password manager like LastPass to help you remember them all.

You should also look to use two-factor authentication when you have the option, which makes it so you have to identify yourself in two distinct ways. For example, if you keep two-factor authentication on your email account, you might need to sign in to your email with a password and also periodically submit a 5-digit code that you receive on your phone.

3. Learn to Recognize Signs of Scams

Ever gotten a message from a count or prince looking to return home, if you only wire money to help them get back?

These emails, known as phishing scams, have become more sophisticated over the years. Some even look like they came from your bank or a payment processor. Know that financial institutions and legitimate sites will never ask you to provide sensitive info via email.

Use the “better safe than sorry” rule and be overly cautious when it comes to info like credit card numbers and bank accounts. When in doubt, call the company that supposedly sent the email.

4. Set Up Fraud Alerts

This won’t prevent security breaches, but it can help you put a stop to them if they happen. Make sure any credit card you use for online shopping has a suspicious activity alert set on it, so you and the credit card issuer can act quickly if your card is ever used without your knowledge or consent.

Know the Risks of Sharing Your Information

Ultimately, all transactions carry some amount of risk. Being aware is the most important step you can take. By staying vigilant and employing some of the best practices outlined above, you should be able to safely enjoy all that online shopping has to offer.

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