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5 Secure Strategies for Safe Online Shopping

The 2017 holiday shopping season is officially underway, and experts predict that this Cyber Monday might be the biggest US online shopping day ever. According to Adobe, web traffic is up 12% over 2016, while smartphones and other mobile devices account for nearly 40% of all revenue.

Sales, site visits, and promotional emails also increased dramatically in the three-day stretch after Thanksgiving, with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and the heretofore-unnamed Sunday all seeing large boosts from last year.

With that comes an uptick in cybercrime, with hackers attempting every trick in the book to scam, breach, or otherwise compromise us out of our valuable online data. That’s why CMIT Solutions has collected 5 important security strategies below to keep your online shopping safe this holiday season:

1) Make sure any website you shop in includes “https” in the URL address.

That extra “s” is an important one — it stands for secure, which means any data routed through that site has an extra layer of security added to it through a secure socket layer (SSL) or transport layer security (TLS) protocol connection.

2) Use credit cards instead of debit cards.

Credit cards offer extra layers of security as well. Enhanced fraud monitoring, dispute procedures, and other protections come built in to most credit accounts, not to mention the extra points and rewards you could earn by spreading out holiday spending on a credit card. But the most basic safety mechanism here is that a credit card charge doesn’t come directly out of your bank account like a debit card charge does. In the event of a hack or breach, that can be a lifesaver.

3) Vet any shopping apps by visiting a retailer’s website and reading reviews.

If you see an app for a brand you like in the Apple or Android app stores, don’t just download it blind — visit that retailer’s website to verify the app and then follow their link to its correct source. Also, if the app you’re looking at seems fishy, chances are that will be reflected in the app’s reviews by those who’ve downloaded it before. And if there aren’t any reviews, beware — a good rule of thumb is “Don’t be the first to try a new app out,” just like you should rely on the advice of IT experts and not be the first to download a new operating system or software update.

4) Avoid giving out too much information.

This should be a no-brainer in our data breach-dominated day and age, but if a shopping website or app requests a lot of info from the get-go (credit card numbers, access to photos or contacts), it’s probably a fraud. Accidentally granting permission like that is often just the mistake hackers are waiting for you to make.

5) Don’t click on any pop-up ads.

Like step 4, this applies equally to Cyber Week websites and popular apps (and it carries over throughout the year, not just in November and December). But any time you get a lot of irritating pop-up ads, use caution. Clicking on one of those can lead a user to an external illicit site that installs malware or other viruses on your device.

This holiday season, vigilance is required to stay safe on the digital front. If you’re looking for more ways to enhance security and keep your data safe, contact CMIT Solutions today. We worry about IT so you don’t have to — especially in this busiest time of the year.

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