7 tips to protect yourself while online shopping

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From clothes to appliances and even groceries, almost anything can be purchased online — and many of us are doing just that. In fact, 95% of Americans have reported to shopping online at least yearly1. As we continue to shift toward this trend, the amount of fraud and/or identity theft incidences are increasing. In 2016, cyber criminals stole from 15.4 million Americans, up 16 percent since 2015. In total, they stole $16 billion — more than $1,000 per victim2.

The next time you buy online, follow these tips to protect yourself from falling victim to fraud or theft.

1. Shop from secure websites only
When you visit a website, the URL should begin with “https” instead of “http.” A secure website is encrypted, allowing you to complete a purchase and enter your personal and credit card information without being hacked.

2. Create a unique username and password for each account you have
Most online retailers allow you to create an account on their website. This way your personal information and credit card number is stored in their system. Many users create an account to see their order status, order history and make reordering items easier. However, for each account you have, be sure to use a unique username and password. Think about this: if you have five accounts for five different retailers, but you use the same username/password for each, as soon as a hacker cracks your login, they now have access to every account in which you use that login for.

3. Never provide your social security number
Plain and simple: online retailers do not need your social security number to complete a transaction.

4. Never click on links or images within a promotional email
This one is a bit trickier. Let’s say you receive an email from your favorite online retailer and they’re offering 50% off the entire website. However, before you click on that image or link in the email, it’s best to go directly to your web browser and type in their website URL. This way you guarantee you are visiting their secure site.

Many hackers use phishing scams where they create a fake email and website to attract consumers to and steal their information. Many times, they can replicate a retailer’s website so well, the consumer has no idea until it’s too late.

5. Never use free Wi-Fi at public places when online shopping
Hackers love free Wi-Fi because it’s easy for them to access your device and steal personal information. When using public Wi-Fi, your data is usually not encrypted. In addition, hackers can create fake Wi-Fi networks, and as soon as you connect to their password-free network, they have complete access to your device.

6. If a deal seems too good to be true, it likely is
If you see an item on a website, such as Amazon, and the price has dropped by $200, it’s likely a scam. Or, if you see an offer that says, “Like our Facebook page and we’ll give you a free iPhone®!” it’s almost always a con.

7. Monitor your credit card activity and statements
Be proactive. Check your credit card activity every day and review your statements in-depth. Request to receive alerts for total purchases over a certain amount, such as $500, within a billing period. This way, if a hacker uses your card for multiple smaller purchases instead of one large purchase, you’ll be notified3.

One U.S. citizen falls victim to identity theft every three seconds2. Although you may take all the appropriate steps to combat fraud, you can still fall victim. Contact your independent insurance agent today to review your policy and learn how you can shield your family, finances and future with Integrity’s identity theft protection coverage.

Sources:
1 BigCommerce.com
2 Javelin Strategy & Research report
3 Mashable.com


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