2020’s holiday season is going to be much like the rest of 2020: distanced. Most people are taking precautions and therefore have put the kibosh on much of their holiday shopping trips, choosing instead to do a majority of their shopping online. By avoiding one risk, people take on others. Today, we thought we’d outline some of the problems people may experience when shopping online and what to do to reduce your risk.
You would just go into a store and start announcing where you live and how much money you have in your checking account to strangers who are shopping alongside you, right? Well, no matter where you do commerce, information is changing hands; and, unfortunately, by choosing to shop online you are at greater risk of encountering scams.
The first thing you should consider, if you haven’t already, is what form of payment you are going to use. Security professionals suggest using a credit card, not a debit card, when purchasing goods and services online if you can help it. There are also payment services like PayPal and Venmo that you can use. Credit cards offer better protection from financial theft, and a lot less liability if something were to go wrong. Credit card companies will have better fraud protection and they will make good faster than your bank will.
You will also want to only shop on sites that you trust. They should offer secure file transfer so that your financial and personal information is protected. Check for “https” or a lock icon in the address bar to ensure that your transactions are being processed securely. Even so, you will also want to not give over unnecessary information. The main problem with shopping online is that you are coerced into giving over more information than you would otherwise. This is an ongoing issue that consumer rights groups are lobbying lawmakers to address. Until they do, it’s on you to keep your data private and protected.
A lot of people have had a rough year. This means that many people are going to be finishing their Christmas shopping up later than usual. This causes several problems, especially this year. Some of the stores are having supply chain problems and will be slow to process purchases. You may not be able to get certain products and others will be on backorder. It’s just the way things go this year.
Secondly, once the process starts it will likely take a little longer to ship than you would expect. Companies have had to make a lot of hard decisions in 2020, and some of them include not hiring the extra help they typically have around the holidays. Less people means slower movement. Everyone is doing their best, but a lot of the speed and convenience we’ve come to know won’t be available for 2020.
Lastly, shipping and mail companies are going to be slammed with online orders more this year than ever before. This means delivery times will be variable. If you want your gifts to arrive so you can put them under the tree, you will want to give companies more time than you typically would.
The holidays are usually the busiest time of year for scammers, but with 10 months of altered existence, it has been open season for the majority of 2020. You will want to understand the best practices of doing business online to avoid any potential nightmare situations down the road. Here is a brief list:
Build Strong Passwords - You will want to have complex and well-considered passwords; and, you will want to use multi-factor authentication on as many accounts as you can. This won’t make you immune to hackers, but it will go a long way toward securing the juncture points where these tech-savvy scammers will infiltrate and corrupt. Also, don’t use the same password on multiple sites and accounts.
Understanding Phishing - You will need to be vigilant when going through your emails and other messages. A message that seems benign could be a major problem if clicked on. You will also want to avoid downloading attachments from messages unless you are certain who the sender is. A good rule is to verify before clicking on anything from anyone, especially right now. This time of year people are inundated with forms and questions and they’ll give over information that they typically wouldn’t, just out of fatigue. You need to be deliberate about online transactions.
Don’t use “Free” Wi-Fi - A lot of people like to use outside Wi-Fi to save money on their wireless bill. This seems reasonable before you consider that hackers prey on these wireless accounts and can siphon information and even money off your mobile device if you don’t have the security in place to protect yourself.
The holidays may look the same, but it will certainly feel different as people distance themselves from one another rather than coming together. Do you plan on doing your shopping online this year? Do you have any other tips that would help people not be victims of identity theft and data loss this holiday season? Leave them in the comments and return to our blog regularly for more great tips and tricks.