The holiday season is always a busy time of year for online shopping. But 2020—when we’re all doing more online—promises to be one of the busiest online shopping years yet.
According to the National Retail Federation, 44% more consumers only shopped online during Thanksgiving weekend this year compared to 2019. While shopping online is very secure, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your money while shopping online this holiday season—and year-round.
Visit trusted websites.
Shop with retailers you know and trust. Always go directly to the website, rather than clicking a link in an email or search results. Watch out for strange website addresses, such as a site that ends in .net instead of .com. When shopping with an unfamiliar retailer or website, check the Better Business Bureau website for complaints and read online reviews before buying.
Shop secure sites.
Don’t buy online from a site that doesn’t use encryption. You can easily check for encryption—the website address will start with HTTPS, and a locked padlock icon will appear in the address bar before the website address.
Use strong passwords.
If you have to create an account to make an online purchase, create a unique password and use different passwords for each site. A password manager can help you create passwords that are difficult to crack and keep track of multiple passwords. Be sure to change your passwords often.
Use your credit card.
If a scammer gets access to your debit card, they gain direct access to your bank account or accounts. If your credit card is compromised, the Fair Credit Billing Act ensures you are only responsible for up to $50 in charges you didn’t authorize. Never wire money as payment for shopping online.
Payment sites like PayPal and Venmo are also more secure ways to pay online. You only enter payment information into one site, rather than multiple retail websites.
Protect your personal information.
Only provide the information necessary to make a purchase, such as your name, address, and credit card number. Shopping websites don’t need your Social Security number or bank account information. Sites that request this information can’t be trusted.
Be wary of amazing deals.
If an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is—especially if it’s from a site or business you’re not familiar with. Scammers often set up fake websites to steal your personal information or money. Many of these sites are promoted on social media, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Look out for fake calls and emails.
Spammers may contact you pretending to be a trusted business to trick you into giving them money or personal information, such as bank account numbers, usernames and passwords, or your Social Security number. This is called an imposter scam.
It’s not uncommon to receive an email from Amazon that your package is delayed—especially this holiday season—or from Paypal asking you to update your payment information. Always go directly to the website, rather than clicking links in an email. Delete suspicious messages from unfamiliar senders. And don’t open attachments or click links in messages.
The FTC recently reported that scammers are calling people claiming to be from Amazon or Apple. Consumers receive a call or recorded message saying there is an issue with your Amazon account—a suspicious purchase, a lost package, or an order they can’t fulfill. The message claiming to be from Apple says there has been suspicious activity on your Apple iCloud account or the account has been breached. The scammers say callers can press 1 to speak with someone or they provide a phone number to call.
If you receive one of these calls, hang up. Do not press 1 or call the number provided.
If you are concerned about your account, contact Amazon or Apple directly.
Check statements regularly.
Watch for suspicious spending by checking your credit card and bank account statements regularly. It’s best to review them online more often than monthly, and consider setting up account alerts to notify you of any new activity on your card. If you see any unfamiliar spending, call your bank or card issuer immediately.
(If you have a First Interstate Mastercard®, you’ll receive real-time text alerts if a transaction has been identified as potentially fraudulent. Mastercard Zero Liability protects you from being accountable for unauthorized purchases on your credit card.)
If you do get scammed, file a complaint with the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.