Online shopping is very popular, due to the fact that it’s convenient and easy. Though online shopping is something that people are obviously taking advantage of, there are many risks involved. It’s important to be cautious when shopping online (and in stores!) because, if you’re not careful, scammers could get your information, potentially stealing your identity, or, at the very least, your hard-earned money.

This is something we have unfortunately seen a lot of at the credit union, and we are happy to share some tips with you to keep you safe while shopping on the Internet.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the website. It’s always better to know the site you are using. Everyone has heard of Amazon or the major retailer websites, so these are more likely to be secure. If the site is unfamiliar, research it before making any purchases or giving out any personal information. If you feel like the site is sketchy, chances are, you’re right. Look it up on sites, such as the Better Business Bureau, to check if it’s legitimate. Also, be sure to read customer reviews about the site. These customers rarely get anything for typing up a review, so they will most likely be completely honest about the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  2. Shop at home. Shopping online in a public place, such as a coffee shop or airport, can be dangerous, even on a personal laptop or smart phone. Hackers can tap into Wi-Fi connections at these hot spots and obtain your personal information. It’s fine to browse while out and about, but save the purchase for when you’re at home, using your own secure Wi-Fi connection. Also, be sure to never check personal information on a public computer, and always log out, even if you’re just checking emails or Facebook.
  3. Know what’s too good to be true. Almost always, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. There is always some sort of offer floating around, often on social media, for something that just seems amazing! Nine times out of ten, though, you’re just going to get yourself involved in a scam. Watch out for these sorts of offers, even from your own friends on social media, who might have fallen for it. Skepticism in these cases can go a long toward saving you from a stolen card number.
  4. Pay with a credit card. Credit cards offer better protection against fraud than debit cards. A good rule of thumb is to have one credit card you use specifically for online purchases. This way, when you check your statements (and check them regularly), it is easy to see if there is any fraud on your accounts. If there is a suspicious online purchase on another credit card, for example, you can quickly see that it is fraud and get it checked out immediately.
  5. Use strong passwords. Come up with passwords only you would know, with a variety of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Never use your name as part of your password. Always keep your passwords private, and never set your computer or smart phone to remember your passwords or card numbers on online shopping sites.