Millions of people rely on online shopping to find the best products for their needs. In today's fast-paced, tech-savvy world, finding the items you need on the internet is the most convenient option there is. Not only is the process of online shopping much easier and faster than shopping in person, but it also gives you access to a much wider selection of products that you often can't find in a store.

As convenient as it is to do your shopping online, this approach comes with its own set of risks. It's crucial to be aware of these potential dangers when shopping on the web to ensure that your privacy remains protected at all times. Fortunately, by following a few simple steps and utilizing Town & Country Federal Credit Union's fraud protection services, you can avoid encountering cyber security issues while shopping on the internet. Keep these tips in mind the next time you visit your favorite online store.

Visit Reliable Websites

While the internet can be a rich source of useful information, it's also teeming with scams and other security risks. Your job as a savvy online shopper is to know where to spot these risks and steer clear of them at all costs.

One of the easiest ways to avoid these pitfalls is to limit your shopping to reliable, trusted websites. Sites that have an established reputation are less likely to trick you into sharing sensitive information or engage in other risky behavior. Some examples of reliable e-commerce sites include Amazon, eBay, Target, Best Buy and Walmart.

Another strategy is to pay close attention to the layout of the website. If you notice blatant spelling errors, unprofessional graphics or unusual domain names, that's your cue to move on to a different site. A well-established website will appear so from the moment you click on the homepage.

Watch the Information You Share

All websites will require you to share some basic information so you can make a purchase, including your home address, credit card number and email address. However, if a retailer prompts you to share any information beyond these basic facts, be careful. This is usually a major red flag that could put you at risk of having your identity stolen. Be extremely wary of websites that ask you to provide too much personal information.

Pay Attention to Prices

You can often tell whether a website is trustworthy by evaluating their prices. If you notice low prices that seem too good to be true, they probably are. The same goes for an excess of free items or giveaways. If you come across constant deals that don't seem reasonable, there's a good chance that the website's main goal is to steal your information. Remember to trust your instincts while online shopping and steer clear of websites that offer unrealistic prices or deals.

Strengthen Your Passwords

A weak password is a scammer's gateway to your personal information. To keep yourself safe online, be sure to use a strong password that's unlikely to be decoded. There are many different ways to strengthen your passwords, but it's vital to stick to a few key guidelines when forming a secure password:

● Combine uppercase and lowercase letters

● Include numbers and symbols

● Do not include any personal information (e.g. names, birthdays, etc.)

● Avoid common words

The most important precaution to take is using a different password for each website you visit. While it may be more convenient to remember the same password no matter which site you're on, this only makes it easier for hackers to debunk it. Try to come up with a unique password every time you sign up for a website to avoid having your personal info stolen.

Check for the Lock

The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a protocol designed to protect private information that is transmitted over the internet. If a website you're visiting uses SSL, you should see a small lock icon in the corner of the URL field. This helps ensure that you're properly protected while sharing information online.

The way SSL works is by masking the personal information that you enter while online shopping. This can include many types of information, but it most commonly protects sensitive financial info, such as your credit card number. If you don't see the lock icon in your URL field, this likely means the website isn't properly equipped to keep your information safe. Be careful and avoid websites without SSL protection whenever you're shopping online.

Keep Track of the Details

After you make a purchase through an online merchant, you should receive a confirmation email. This email contains vital information that can come in handy if your order never arrives or if you believe you've been a victim of fraud.

The main pieces of information to store in a safe place are your order confirmation number, receipt and package tracking number. You can provide these details to the online seller if you run into any issues with your order. In the event that the seller isn't responsive to your concerns, be sure to contact your credit card provider immediately. They might even eliminate the purchase from your credit card statement if the seller fails to give you the help you need.

Monitor Your Emails

Many companies send out emails featuring special deals and sales. In most cases, these offers shouldn't activate any alarm bells. However, it's important to double-check the source of the email as well as its content to verify that it's safe to open. If the sender of the email is a company you don't trust or a website you've never used before, it's a good idea to delete the message and move on. Be sure to only open emails that come from reputable sites.

Use Private Wi-Fi

When you're working on your laptop at your favorite coffee shop, it may be tempting to take a quick online shopping break and browse some great deals. If your goal is to stay safe, though, you may not want to place an order just yet. Making purchases through a public Wi-Fi connection is extremely risky for a number of reasons.

One of the biggest risks of public Wi-Fi is misleading names. Sometimes, scammers or hackers name their Wi-Fi connection after a nearby coffee shop or hotel, tricking patrons into thinking that they're safely navigating a secure internet connection. In other cases, these hackers can scan the public Wi-Fi you're using in an effort to detect users' private information.

Regardless of where you are or what type of internet connection you're using, always proceed with caution and use your common sense. It's best to avoid public Wi-Fi altogether and stick to making online purchases through your own private Wi-Fi connection. Taking this basic step can enable you to practice fraud prevention in a simple way.

Pay With a Credit Card

Debit cards offer many perks to make your life easier, such as not having to pay annual fees and steering clear of debt. When it comes to online shopping security, however, it's best to use a credit card to make your purchases. Here are some of the main reasons why.

First, most credit card providers don't penalize you for having your personal information stolen. Many major credit card companies have a $0 liability charge for unauthorized charges, which gives you peace of mind in knowing that you don't have to pay while your claim is being investigated.

On the other hand, debit card companies often impose fees for online theft. These fees can be as high as $50, given you make your claim within two days after the fraudulent purchase was made. Some debit card providers completely neglect to pay you back if you fail to make a claim due to someone taking over your account.

If you can, try to remember to use a credit card the next time you shop online. Not only will this help keep you and your personal information safe, but it'll also make the process go more smoothly if you need to report a case of online theft. Credit cards such as the Town & Country Visa Rewards Credit Card also tend to be a more secure option when it comes to buying items through an online vendor.

Keeping Your Information Safe While Online Shopping

Taking basic fraud prevention guidelines into account can help make online shopping an easier and more enjoyable experience. The next time you head to your favorite online store and browse their latest deals, be sure to review these tips in advance to keep your information safe. From using a stronger password to letting TCFCU's personal services help you protect your identity, every step makes a difference. In no time, you'll become an expert on cyber security who makes every single purchase with confidence.

For more information about keeping your information safe and secure, schedule an appointment here to speak with a Town & Country representative.

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