By Michelle Seaver
If you’re like most people these days, you will do at least some of your holiday shopping on the Internet. Nearly $1 of every $6 spent during November and December is spent online, but with that convenience comes increased risk. According to Experian.com, 14.2 million credit card numbers were exposed in 2017, an 88 percent increase from 2016. This holiday season, we encourage you to protect yourself by staying informed and following best practices for shopping online.
Use trusted and familiar websites
Shop only on sites that have a secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption installed, as these sites are better equipped for protecting any data that a user inputs. Spotting these sites is easy as they begin with HTTPS:// instead of HTTP:// and display a locked padlock icon in the address bar.
Stay away from websites that are not familiar even if they appear to be authentic. If you take a closer look you may notice misspellings and inaccurate product descriptions.
Be cautious when purchasing products from social media boutiques, as well. These accounts may be managed by individuals wishing to steal your information. Quickly scan all unfamiliar company pages and verify authenticity before making a purchase.
Update passwords and avoid saving card information
Passwords that are short and simple are easier for hackers to guess. Strong passwords have a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using the same password for multiple online accounts.
Even though it’s quicker, don’t save your credit or debit card information on websites that allow it. If the website has a data breach, or if your computer is stolen, hackers may be able to access that stored information.
Avoid shopping on public Wi-Fi
It is not a good idea to make an online purchase or access financial information using a public computer, but if you do, remember to log out of all your accounts and delete your browsing history. Be cautious when using your personal computer with public Wi-Fi, as the connection may not be secure, and your personal information may be accessible to anyone else on the network.
Check statements frequently
Stay on top of your accounts this holiday season by frequently checking your bank statements. Some financial institutions, including United Community Bank, offer services that allow you to control use of your credit and debit cards from your phone. With UCB’s CardValet app, you can track purchases in real time, lock and unlock your debit card, set spending limits, and more.
Recognize the signs of a scam
If the deal sounds too good to be true, chances are that it is. If a website prompts you to enter your information in order to receive a free gift or suggests that you have to pay only a very low price for a gadget that is normally expensive, it is probably a trap. Offers like this appear frequently on social media and may be forwarded to you by your friends who are unaware of the consequences.
Michelle Seaver is the president of Greenville County for United Community Bank.