With shoppers continuing to navigate COVID-19 concerns, online buying is expected to hit record levels this holiday season and Sparklight encourages consumers to be increasingly vigilant about their online safety.
“The ongoing health and safety issues in the United States have driven more and more people to do even their everyday shopping online – including groceries and meal delivery,” said Ken Johnson, Senior Vice President of Technology Services. “This increased activity gives cyber criminals more opportunity to access our personal information. Caution is always key when sharing personal information online, but in our current situation, it becomes even more critical.”
Think before you click
Scammers and hackers often send “phishing” emails, “smishing” instant messages or “vishing” voice calls that appear to be from a trusted source in order to collect confidential account information. No legitimate service will ask you to provide your username and password – they will only ask that you visit their official website and log in. Warning signs of phishing or smishing can include a suspicious address from the sender, or misspellings or grammatical errors in the text of the message. These clues, paired with requests for personal information or requests to click on a link, are signs that the message is not legitimate. Never click the links or open attachments in a suspicious email and be skeptical of offers that seem too good to be true.
“No matter the method in which they try to reach you, the bottom line is that criminals are trying to trick you into giving them your personal information,” said Johnson. “Think twice before sharing personal information with unsolicited email, text messages or voice calls.”
Use strong passwords
Many people use apps and websites that require passwords and there can be a temptation to use the same password for multiple log-ins. But if a hacker gets your password, this practice enables access to several of your accounts. Be diligent about using strong passwords. The test of a strong password is length, randomness and uniqueness. Aim for 16-24 characters that are completely random and use every character type – uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols – or use four unrelated words strung together. There are several reputable password manager apps that can help.
Look for the HTTPS
Before completing an online purchase, make sure the website is security enabled by looking for URLs with https:// at the beginning. The “s” stands for secure and means the website is using encryption to help keep your information protected. There will also be a padlock icon to the left of the URL in the address bar. If you are using an unsecure server (HTTP) or using a public wireless network, do not share personal information such as a credit card number.
Shopping via Mobile App
Criminals are very good at creating phony retail apps with logos that look like legitimate businesses. Scammers use these apps to steal your identity or infect your device with malware. Verify an app’s authenticity by downloading it from the company’s official website. If downloading from an app store, check to see how long it’s been around, keep an eye out for misspellings in the app description, and take a look at the ratings and reviews – avoid being the first to download a new shopping app.
Keep your receipts, shipping and tracking information, and be sure to monitor your credit card activity even more frequently during the holidays so you can spot any suspicious activity right away. Don’t use a debit card online because if it is compromised, hackers have immediate access to your bank accounts and can empty them quickly. Many credit cards have theft protection in case of unauthorized use.