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We know you’re looking for amazing deals this weekend, so we want to give you a few tips to keep your data safe while you do it.

This year, holiday shopping looks a little bit different. Instead of flocking to stores, many people will be shopping from the comfort of their homes using sites like Amazon. Using these sites is convenient—especially when working to decrease the spread of COVID-19—but can lead to your data being compromised.

Online threats are often invisible or impossible to predict. Hackers interested in stealing your personal information, viruses sent with the intent to corrupt your files, and sketchy sites selling products you’ll never get. 

Make sure you’re keeping your personal data safe this holiday shopping season too by following these tips.  

Create Strong Passwords

You’ve been told a million times since the dawn of the internet how important it is to create strong and unique passwords. Create passwords that are between eight and twelve characters long, use a combination of capital and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters (not including the “@” symbol) that are hard to guess. Make your passwords unique for each account you have so if one gets compromised, the rest will be harder to crack.

Use Familiar Websites

When you go through your email or social media, you may be served advertisements from unfamiliar companies with amazing deals. These offers can be tempting, but before you head to the check-out and give them your credit card number, take a moment to verify the site you’re using. If you’re shopping somewhere new, try doing a quick search for the brand just to be sure they’re legitimate.

Verify the Safety of the Sites You’re Using

Every e-commerce site you use should have an SSL (or secure sockets layer) certificate that verifies it’s safe to use. Websites with an SSL Certificate have an extra layer of protection that encrypts data passing from one server to another so it can’t be read if intercepted. This is incredibly important for sites that accept personal information. 

To know if a website you’re using is secure, just look at the address bar in your browser. If the URL starts with “https” (emphasis on that final “s”) or you see a lock icon next to the address, you know the site has an SSL certificate and is safe to use. If the site doesn’t have that layer of security, consider finding a new place to shop.

Only Shop on Private, Secure Networks

If you’re sitting at a coffee shop and you see an amazing online deal you HAVE you have, stop. When using public wi-fi networks like those at your favorite coffee shop, it is easy for hackers to get in and track information back to your computer and compromise your data. Save the deal to your cart and come back to it when you’re back on your own private network. You can also consider browsing “incognito” by pressing Ctrl+Shift+N (for Chrome users). These tabs don’t store any data, cookies, passwords, bookmarks, or browsing history so they are safer for browsing.

Don’t Provide Too Much Information

For the most part, e-commerce sites don’t need your birthdate or social security to do business. However, hackers need that information to successfully steal your identity. So, don’t give them out, especially if there is no SSL Certificate.

Keep Everything Updated

While doing your shopping, make sure to update your browsers, security software (malware and virus protection), and your ad blockers. When these are out of date, they don’t offer the same amount of protection and can allow malware and viruses to creep in and compromise your computer and your data.

Use a Secure Payment

If you can, use a credit card or prepaid gift card for your holiday shopping. In the event of fraudulent charges, it is usually much easier to cancel a credit card and have the funds refunded than with most bank cards. Gift cards can’t be traced back to you or your account and can’t be used for more purchases down the line.

Keep an Eye on Your Statements

You probably do this anyway, but make sure you’re keeping a close eye on your bank statements this time of year. Check for any fraudulent charges so you can catch and report them as soon as possible. If you use mobile banking, see if they can send you notifications whenever your account is charged. It can get annoying if you’re doing a lot of shopping all at once but comes in handy if a mistake occurs.

Use Your Instincts

When surfing the web, you’re served a lot of advertisements for products or deals. You may even receive emails from your favorite retailers offering you “an exclusive deal just for you!” Be wary and trust your instincts. If a deal seems too good to be true, well, it probably is.

 

Keep your money and data safe

No matter how many great deals you find this Black Friday, do your due diligence to make sure your personal information stays safe. Keep these tips in mind while you’re doing your holiday shopping for friends, loved ones, or yourself (hey, we won’t judge!). Happy deal finding! 

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