Shopping online is a pleasure. No traffic, no crowds, and no searching for a parking spot. According to Forrester Research, U.S. online retail sales will grow to $480 billion by 2019. At the same time, scams are growing too. Between 2015 and 2016, the Federal Trade Commission saw an increase in consumers who reported their stolen data was used for credit card fraud; the figure rose from nearly 16 percent in 2015 to more than 32 percent in 2016.
Make sure all your online shopping is as secure as a trip to the mall:
- Call the retailer first. If you’re not sure about the website’s legitimacy, pick up the phone and try the number that is listed. Anyone can set up a website today, and it doesn’t take much to look like a Fortune 500 company. Before entering your credit card number, see if you can talk to a live person.
- Google the retailer. Did anyone post a less than positive review about the site you’re about to order from?
- Look for a “Buy Safe” seal. Buy Safe is a company that certifies online sellers as being reliable.
- Look for https. In today’s online world, you don’t want to risk entering your credit card information over an internet connection unless that site is encrypted. Encrypted websites have a URL that begins with the letters “https” and not just “http.” Look also for an SSL certificate or a pop-up window telling you you’re entering a secure site. If it’s not secure, don’t shop at the site.
- Use your credit card for online purchases. Credit cards offer more federal protections than debit cards and makes getting a refund easier. Prevent fraudulent transactions from occurring on your credit cards by setting up fraud text alerts on your mobile device.
- Don’t input more information than what is necessary. There’s no reason why a company you’re ordering a sweatshirt from needs your date of birth, social security number or income level. Anyone asking for that type of information is either selling it to others for marketing purposes or is engaged in identity theft.
- Don’t respond to unsolicited emails by clicking on links that are embedded in the email. Instead, find the site yourself through a search engine or type it manually into the browser if you know it.
Shopping online may be convenient, but being safely at home doesn’t ensure that you’re safe. Exercise caution while you shop online, just as you would carefully guard your cash and credit cards when shopping at a busy mall during the holidays. Monitor your transactions regularly using the Stanford FCU mobile app and touch ID.