Cyber Monday is a major shopping day for those who refuse to battle Black Friday crowds on Thanksgiving weekend. Predictions for sales continue to grow each year, and along with it, the financial fears of identity theft.
Although online shopping is more convenient for holiday shoppers, credit and debit cards are more vulnerable to identity theft. According to the Insurance Information Institute, thieves stole $16 billion from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier. With the increase in online shopping to nab the best deals, hackers are at the ready to nab your sensitive information — if you make it easy for them. The Society of Louisiana Certified Public Accountants offers these five tips to prevent your information from being gobbled up by thieves this Cyber Monday.
- Only shop on secure sites. If a website URL begins with “https” instead of “http,” the site is secured with a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate. Secure sites will also display an icon, such as a padlock or an unbroken key, to let consumers know their credit card information is protected. Additionally, if a site has a privacy statement, which explains how they secure your information, you’ll want to read the fine print to make sure you agree to their terms. If you’re unsure if a site is reputable, avoid entering any personal information.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi. Using public Wi-Fi for online purchases can be dangerous and puts your information at risk. Hackers can access every bit of information people use on public networks – including email and credit card information. If you’re worried about hackers stuffing their wallets with your money, always use a password-protected network to make purchases and access bank information.
- Only pay using credit cards. When it comes to online shopping, thankfully, credit cards are a safer choice than debit cards. If your debit card gets compromised, the hacker has direct access to your checking account and can spend your money instantly. Most credit card companies will help track down fraudulent charges. Some companies even have a “zero liability” policy and will take care of any fraudulent charges that may occur. Alternatively, you can purchase a prepaid card and only put the money you plan to spend on Cyber Monday on that card. If thieves do access that card information, in theory, you would have already spent all the money.
- Ignore pop-up ads and spam links. Cybercriminals know consumers will fall for a phony advertisement promoting a great deal, especially around the holidays. Valid websites will only send email promotions to those who subscribe, so never click a link from an unfamiliar sender. Social media giveaways have also become very popular with consumers, and unfortunately, hackers. Retailers usually ask people to like or share a post, which counts as an entry for the contest. Hackers create phony contests to promote incredible deals to attract contestants. Once a contestant enters, the hacker has access to all of his or her personal information. Only participate in giveaways hosted by valid retailers to avoid looking like a turkey.
- Update your software. Make sure your computer is equipped with the most current operating system and antivirus software, and download the latest update on your smartphone and/or tablet. It is also smart to use effective browsers—such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Safari—so your device can detect emerging viruses and scams, which will better protect your cornucopia of information.
Turn to Your CPA
Making smart shopping choices at the holidays is just one of the many ways you can manage your money and make the most of your spending power. If you have questions about these tips or any other financial issues, be sure to contact your local CPA. He or she has the expertise to help you make smart financial decisions.
Cyber Monday Shopping Tips
- Make sure billing and mailing addresses are updated before Cyber Monday, so your purchases ship to the right location.
- Research when the sales you’re interested in begin and end to make the most of your time.
- Make a “wish list” on retail websites beforehand. This will allow you enough time to make all your purchases before sales end.
- Look for deals that offer free shipping. The added cost of shipping could put your grand total near or above the product’s original price.
- Read the return policy before you buy. You’ll want to know if stores offer cash back or store credit, or if all sales are final.