In today's world, more and more people use the internet to shop online. Being able to purchase online and have goods delivered to your door at your fingertips makes our daily lives easier. However, there are without a doubt some risks involved when purchasing goods and services online. There will always be criminals and nefarious actors out there who intend to take advantage of tools to get your money or your information and sell it; especially with websites such as Amazon and eBay becoming more and more popular. To that end, we'll be taking a look at a few tips you can pick up to protect you while shopping online.
Websites that are unfamiliar to you should be considered risky unless it was referred to you by another trusted and reputable source. Search engines, in particular, do not fit this means as their algorithms can be taken advantage of by any technically-savvy person. As such, one could still very easily stumble across malicious websites through a search engine. This tip will also help you with spotting phishing attacks; a type of scam where a website might be made to look similar to a familiar one but is in fact not. Becoming familiar with a small selection of trusted sites such as Amazon is a good place to start so that at the very least, you'd have no worries of falling victim to any strange and unfamiliar websites' scams.
It is a good rule of thumb to ensure that on any website in which you have to enter information, there is a "lock pad" in your web browser's URL bar. What this bar signifies is that the page is Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (or HTTPs) which basically means any information you enter will be encrypted. This is a good means of protection to ensure your card information is secured and as such, not easily decrypted by any nefarious party. In today's world, HTTPs has become quite commonplace and a standard that many web admins apply to their website; even if it doesn't involve any banking or card information is entered.
Regardless of how convincing any website might be, none of them ever has a need for personal information related to your account. That is to say, if a website requests your social security number for you to make a purchase, you're much better off without entering it and using some other means to purchase that gift. This should also be applied to any website in general about personal/sensitive information related to your privacy such as your birthday and personal information about your family. The reason why scammers are interested in this type of information is that it is often related to security questions to access your information in successfully identifying you.
Periodically checking your bank statements goes a long way. It might seem simple and obvious but it is strangely something many don't do which allows many nefarious actors to get away with stealing funds from person's bank accounts. Most often, if you can notice strange activity on your bank account in advance; such as a sudden sum of money going missing or a sum of money placed on hold mysteriously, you can raise a concern with your bank who will begin an investigation into the issue immediately. This simple action can save you thousands of dollars and a lot of headache with just a periodic check every so often.
Constantly making sure your devices are up-to-date and secure is another good tip that many don't do despite it being an obvious and simple one. Scammers try to get your information through any means such as malware and keylogger software. Malware is a type of program that duplicates itself over and over within the networked devices so as it cannot be easily removed while performing some nefarious function; in which case, sharing your information to others. A keylogger, on the other hand, is a piece of software which captures every keystroke you type on a keyboard, enabling one to effectively capture your bank information when entered. Having security on your device can help protect you from and identify these types of threats before they become a serious problem.
Strong passwords goes a longer way than most might realize. Password crackers typically use an algorithm called a "brute force" attack to break into a person's account through running hundreds of thousands of combinations of characters to guess a person's password. As such, having a simple password such as 1111 means that these password crackers would gain access to your almost immediately. Having a strong password will also protect you from having a scammer trying to use personal information to gain access to your account. If your password is simply the year of your first car or the name of your first pet, this information is more likely to be shared with others and as such, more likely to be broken without the need of any algorithms by a nefarious actor.
Avoid entering your sensitive information on public and untrusted networks. Many might think it's fine to go to a public bar and use their smart device to make payment across that network but there is no guarantee that the network is secure. As such, it's possible for a hacker to place a packet snooper on an unsecured network that captures your sensitive information; thus, putting you at a great deal of risk.
It was mentioned earlier that you should stick to familiar websites but here's another tip for those of us who want to try other websites anyway: Do your due diligence. It was suggested that any website which you may try should be recommended from trusted sources. Even then, it is still a good idea to do your own research on that website to ensure it can be trusted. There actually exists an online tool made by the Better Business Bureau with the goal of making a comprehensive list of all trusted sellers and a scam-tracker. Reading reviews on Google and Yelp can also be a good means of ensuring the authenticity of these new websites as well before you make a purchase.
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