It’s no surprise that millions of Americans will choose Cyber Monday over Black Friday this holiday season. After all, an increasing number of retailers now offer exclusive online deals the Monday following Black Friday—and that helped Cyber Monday sales increase 22 percent from 2010 to 2011.1
Online shopping is also convenient and easy and lets you avoid long lines at the store. But is it safe? Well, that’s another story. That’s because as shoppers look for deals online, virtual predators are busy looking for victims in the exact same place.
Advice for any device
Whether you’re using a traditional computer, tablet or mobile device, these tips will help you outsmart predators lurking in the digital marketplace.
- Beware of misspelling the site you intend on visiting—and be wary about shopping at sites that end in anything other than .com.
- Remember that any page that lets you enter credit card information should start with https:// and include a locked padlock icon.
- Use credit, rather than debit, cards when shopping online. Debit card information is easier to steal, and it takes longer to recover any stolen funds.
- Refrain from making purchases via a public Wi-Fi connection—open connections can give hackers direct access to your personal information.
- If a site requires you to log in, choose a strong password that doesn’t in any way relate to your personal information. (Goodbye, mom’s maiden name.)
- Keep an eye out for any odd error messages or redirections to clone sites. In these cases, your data could be captured without you even knowing it.
- Make sure that any built-in firewalls are turned on and that any security software is up to date.
Finished with your shopping spree? Then remember to keep these two things in mind.
- Check your statements for any fraudulent charges and notify your financial institution ASAP if you notice anything strange.
- Plan on tossing your device after snagging a deal on a newer version? Then make sure your hard drive is wiped clean before you discard it. (Pcmag.com offers helpful tips on how to do that.)
Research shows that smartphone users are twice as likely as other cell owners to have had someone invade their privacy after accessing their phone.2 And that’s especially scary news for the 80 percent of smartphone users who shop on their mobile since they’re exposing their financial information.
Safeguard your smartphone by following a few quick tips.
- When installing an app, take the time to read the small print and consider the personal information the app requires. Not comfortable sharing so much? Then seriously reconsider installing it.
- Download store-specific apps like those for Target or Amazon. (Still check to see if the URL starts with a secure https:// and has a locked padlock icon.)
- Install—and regularly update—any security software that’s made specifically for your smartphone.
Look into programs that back up information on your smartphone to your home computer. Many of these programs will also wipe out information stored on your phone if it’s lost or stolen. While iPhones have a built-in feature that erases information after 10 failed log-on attempts, other smartphone users should check with their phone’s manufacturer or their wireless provider about backup/wiping programs.
Personal protection from ERIE
Sometimes even the smartest cyber shoppers fall prey to identity theft. That’s why it’s worth adding Identity Recovery Coverage from ERIE to your shopping cart. Available for a low annual fee, Identity Recovery Coverage assigns a trained case manager to assist if your identity has been stolen. It also provides:
- Up to $5,000 in lost wages
- Up to $1,000 in miscellaneous expenses
- Certain legal fees, including the expenses for defending any civil suit brought against you by a creditor or collection agency or for removing any civil judgment wrongfully entered against you as a result of the stolen identity