Today is Cyber Monday so be on guard online
(MIAMI, November 26, 2012) – Millions of Americans will be doing their holiday shopping online today. Cyber Monday is a marketing term for the Monday immediately following Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. The term was created by companies to encourage people to shop online and avoid large crowds at the malls.
This year, it’s expected that many Americans will be taking advantage of Cyber Monday in search for the best online prices. Several online retailers will be offering great online deals which provide consumers with the convenience of avoiding long lines and large crowds.
There is no doubt that the internet provides consumers with a practical alternative to shopping at the malls. However, the price for this convenience may turn out very costly if your information falls into the wrongs hands. It’s imperative that online shoppers take basic steps to protect themselves from becoming victims of fraud and identity theft.
The following tips from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) will help make your holiday shopping safer and more enjoyable.
- Avoid using debit cards (check cards) online. If your card information is compromised, funds can be withdrawn from your bank account without your knowledge. Under federal law, your bank can take up to two weeks to investigate fraudulent activity before returning the funds to your account. In addition, if you don't report the missing funds promptly, you could potentially lose all the money on deposit in your bank.
- Consider using a virtual or single-use credit card. Some card issuers offer virtual credit cards or single-use card numbers that can be used online. Virtual credit cards use a randomly generated substitute account number in place of your actual credit card number. Ask your card issues about this.
- Only shop at secure sites. If you look at the top of your screen where the website's address is displayed, you should see "https://". The "s" that is displayed after "http" indicates that the site encrypts information being transferred from your computer to the merchant. You may not see the "s" until you actually move to the order page on the site.
- Don’t provide unnecessary information to process your order. Although you will need to provide shipping and payment information, do not allow retailers to obtain additional information that can be used by the merchant and other businesses to target you for marketing purposes. Never give your Social Security Number.
- Never "recycle" a password. Some online shopping sites will ask you to establish a user name and password. Password-protected sites are becoming more vulnerable because often people use the same user names and passwords on numerous sites. Do you really want an online retailer to know the password to your online banking? You may be doing so by "recycling" your passwords. If your password for one site is breached, your other online accounts could be put at risk if you use the same passwords. If you do decide to create a user name and password, make sure it is adequately strong. Learn more in PRC's Alert: 10 Rules for Creating a Hacker-Resistant Password.
- Sign up for online banking alerts. Don’t wait until you get your monthly statement in the mail. Many banks offer real-time communications about changes to your bank account. For example, you can sign up to receive email notification that a bill is due or a transaction has cleared. Be on the lookout for charges you didn't make. If you do sign up for email notification, make sure you know the difference between a legitimate alert from your bank and a phishing email from a criminal. Learn more about phishing in PRC's Fact Sheet 18: Online Privacy: Using the Internet Safely.
- Print, save, or take a screen capture of your order confirmation. Be sure that it includes the cost of the order (including any discounts or promotions applied), shipping and handling charges (if applicable), your customer information, complete product information, and your confirmation number. Often you will also receive a confirmation message that is emailed to you by the merchant. Be sure to save the message as well as any other email correspondence with the company.
- Be cautious when entering payment information at a Wi-Fi hotspot. While it can be convenient to shop from your laptop or tablet at a coffee house or airport, most Wi-Fi hotspots are unsecured and unencrypted. Hackers can intercept network traffic to steal your credit card number and other sensitive information. Ensure that your device is not set to automatically connect to the nearest available Wi-Fi access point. Install a firewall on your device and keep it enabled at all times. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN provides encryption over an unencrypted Wi-Fi connection and renders intercepted traffic useless to the hacker. Learn more by reading PRC's Fact Sheet 2: Wireless Communications: Voice and Data Privacy.