Tips for Secure Shopping Online

The holiday shopping season is upon us, and millions of people around the world will be looking to shop online to buy the perfect gifts for their loved ones; in search of great deals and to avoid long lines, over-packed stores and impatient crowds. Unfortunately, this is also the time of year many cyber criminals create phony shopping websites and fake shopping emails to scam and steal from others.

Cyber criminals create these fake websites by replicating the look of real sites or using the names of well-known stores or brands. They then use these fraudulent tactics to prey on people who are looking for the best deal possible.

Protect yourself when shopping online by using these following tips:

  • When possible, purchase from websites that you already know, trust, and have done business with previously.
  • Verify the website has a legitimate mailing address and a phone number for sales or customer support related questions.
  • If the site looks suspicious, call and speak to a person. If you can’t get a hold of someone to talk to or there is no support contact information that is the first big sign you are dealing with a fake website.
  • Look for the obvious, like deals that are too good to be true or poor grammar and spelling.
  • Be on guard against phishing and malware schemes that take advantage of a shopper’s distraction and frenzy during the holidays; emails crafted to look like they were sent from a name-brand store claiming that there was a problem with your order or some component of the shipping process.
  • If you have the choice between using a credit or debit card, shop with your credit card.
  • Virtual credit card numbers (or single-use credit cards) offer another layer of protection when shopping online. Most numbers generated are either one-time use, have a small spending limit, or are limited to one online merchant. Be careful though, some transactions over the maximum spending limit or the expiration date might still go through.
  • Review your credit card statements to identify suspicious charges, especially after you’ve made big online purchases or shopped at a new site.
  • Before purchasing any items, make sure your connection to the website is encrypted. Most
    browsers show a connection is encrypted by having a padlock and/or the letters HTTPS (Secure Socket Layer or SSL) in green right before the website’s name.

However newer research shows that a large number of fake online shopping sites also use HTTPS. To be clear, you absolutely should run away from any online shopping site that does not include HTTPS. Remember just because the site looks professional does not mean it is legitimate.

In addition to shopping at legitimate websites, you want to ensure your computer or mobile device is secure and up to date. Cyber criminals will try to infect your devices so they can harvest your bank accounts, credit card data, passwords, as well as information you have stored for family and friends.

Remembering these tips while shopping online will give you peace of mind not only during the holiday season but all year long.

If you are unsure or curious about a website, please feel free to contact the Help Desk via phone at 215-854-7067 or by email at [email protected].


Works Cited:

Krebs, Brian. “How to Shop Online Like a Security Pro.” November, 2018. Accessed 30 November 2018.
Pash, Adam. “Increase online shopping security with virtual credit cards.” July, 2007. Accessed 30 November 2018.
Pinola, Melanie. “Use Virtual Credit Card Numbers to Shop Safely Online, Keeping in Mind the Downsides.” August, 2011. Accessed 30 November 2018.
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