Tips for Safer Online Shopping

More and more shoppers are choosing to cruise online shelves from the comfort of their homes, but paying for merchandise over the internet can expose you to fraud, unexpected credit card charges and identity theft. Tech2U is here today to go over tips and tricks for shopping online safely.

You may be wondering how online shopping can put yourself in danger of fraud or identity theft. Criminals will use phishing techniques and create online sites purely for the purpose of gathering a victims personal information. There may be an email detailing a great bargain on a popular item and that link will take you to a website that shows a fake payment screen. A victim will enter there information and get it stolen by the perpetrators and never get the item they think they are buying. Other times you can get an email that looks like it is from Amazon or Target asking you to confirm some personal information. The criminals will spoof the links so they look like the vendor but really you’re directed to the scammers site.

To prevent yourself from being swindled you can follow a few basic guidelines:

Shop at reputable vendors

Never click through pop up links or banner ads. If you are interested in an item, go directly to the site and search for that item manually. If you are not familiar with an online vendor, do some research on them before you make any purchases. Check the Better Business Bureau and independent reviews on the vendor to get an accurate picture on exactly who they are.

Check for a secure connection

Only enter your credit card number if the site address in your browser starts with https://. The S in https represents that the site has a valid SSL certificate and the traffic is encrypted. This is a crucial when you are doing any online transactions with your banking information and you should never buy anything off a website that does not have a valid SSL certificate.

Only use a credit card for purchases

Never sign up for a bank transfer or use your debit card for online purchases. If you use a debit card it is much harder to get your money back if something goes wrong than if you had used a credit card. If you do decide to use a debit card, never give your pin to an online merchant and if you have the option, always use your debit card as a credit card. Remember, the bank will usually have your back if you use a credit card and get scammed online.

Don’t make online purchases over public WiFi

Public WiFi is inherently unsecured. Anyone on the network can listen in on your traffic and steal any data that you may enter. The only exception to this is if you are on a VPN. If you aren’t, never enter in any personal information or passwords when you are connected to public WiFi. Yes, this includes Starbucks!

Always keep your confirmation emails

Create a separate folder in your email that contains all the confirmation emails you get when purchasing products. It will be much easier to contest an incorrect charge and fight back against “small print” rules not listed on your receipt. It is also easier to return an item if it wasn’t what you expected if you have the confirmation email with all of the details about the item.

Install security updates

You should always keep your operating system up to date on your computer and your phone. New security releases help protect you against vulnerabilities and can make a huge difference in security on your devices. This goes the same for any virus protection you may have. If a new vulnerability is detected, criminals will quickly write exploits to compromise vulnerable systems. Keeping all your software up to date will deter these threats.

If you have become a victim of online fraud the first thing you should do is contact your credit card company. Discontinue the credit card to avoid additional charges and cancel any fraud transactions. It is also a good idea to sign up for text or email alerts to let you know if any unusual activity happens on your account.

App of the week:

Epicurious is a free iOS, Android, Kindle, Nook, and Windows Phone app that brings the Epicurious database of recipes and dining inspiration to your phone. You can search for a dish by:

  • meal / course (dinner, lunch, dessert, etc)
  • type (salad, sauce, cookie, etc)
  • dietary consideration (healthy, vegan, etc)
  • main ingredient
  • cuisine type (Thai, Italian, etc)
  • or by categories like “Quick and Easy”

Recipes are rated by users and reviews often give tips for making improvements and changes. There is a huge library of recipes (30,000+ from popular chefs & cookbooks, 100,000+ submitted by users) and the app also lets you save recipes you like to your personal “recipe box”. Check it out at Epicurious.

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Video Transcription:
Walt: All right, welcome back everyone. More and more shoppers choosing to shop online, like Amazon, from the comfort of their homes. Paying for merchandise over the Internet can expose you to fraud, unexpected credit card charges and even identity theft. Jason Davis is here from Tech2U, with tips on shopping online safely. So, what are some of the biggest risks if, I mean, if you’re on Amazon, is that even risky?
Jason: Well, you know, Amazon is not too bad, but the biggest risk about online shopping is phishing.
Walt: Phishing, yeah.
Jason: Yeah, I’ve talked about this before. So basically, some websites are created with the sole intention of stealing a user’s personal information. And sometimes it will even come into your email, or you’ll see a banner ad saying like, “Oh, an iPad for $99.” How can you pass that up?
Walt: Click here. Sure.
Jason: Right? So when you go to a website like that, they’ll take all your personal information that you enter and either sell it on the black market, or use it to steal your identity. Other times, you could even get an email from a site like Target or Costco that looks totally legitimate, has a link to what looks like at the bottom, but it’s all spoofed by a hacker and it can be really dangerous.
Walt: So, how do we avoid that happening to us?
Jason: Well, I have six tips here. The first one is to shop at reputable vendors. That means don’t click through advertisements. Go directly to their website. Look for independent reviews. And if you’re still unsure, you can check with the Better Business Bureau.
The second is to only give out your credit card numbers on websites with security certificates, which means the beginning of the website has HTTPS. So that means it’s been certified and the data sent between the browser and your computer is encrypted, so it’s safe.
The third tip is to only use credit cards, never use your debit card or do bank transfers, because it’s a lot easier to get refunded into your credit account than it is to get cash back into your checking.
Number four, don’t buy over public Internet. Go home, buy it in your house because you never know who is sitting at Starbucks just waiting to steal people’s credit card info, right?
Fifth one, keep your confirmation emails. Create a separate folder, so you have them all ready. That way you can fight any defective claims, or incorrect charges. See all the fine print that’s not on the receipt.
And the last tip is to make sure all of your security updates are installed. Your operating system on your phone, anti-malware software because basically, every time there is an update, it’s fixing a hole that a hacker could use to get your information.
Walt: So, what happens if you do find out that you’ve been a victim of online fraud, what happens then?
Jason: Well, the first thing you have to do is contact your credit card company, of course, and discontinue the card number. And then you want to make sure to sign up for email and text alerts, so that if there is ever another fraudulent charge, you’ll know right away.
Walt: Okay. People have been waiting for this, as always. What’s your app of the week?
Jason: The app of the week this week is Epicurious.
Walt: Okay.
Jason: So it’s basically a database of over 130,000 different recipes and they all include user reviews and things like that. The search function is really cool. You can search based on meal, the type of food you want, like Mexican or things like that, specific categories and also dietary restrictions. So, it uses a lot of options on there.
Walt: So, you being in the business, have you ever fallen victim to a scam or been swindled?
Jason: Luckily, no.
Walt: Because you’re smarter than that, right?
Jason: Right, right.
Walt: Because what would happen if your boss found out that you got sucked in by something you’re talking about?
Jason: I’d never be back here, that’s for sure.
Walt: Your boss would be like, “You went…what’s wrong with you?” No, but that’s good, those are all good tips. Especially, when you’re doing your own business and a target ad will come up and it’s just like, “Whoa, where did that come from? Oh, $99.”
Jason: Can’t pass it up.
Walt: Funny thing, we’re at Target yesterday with my daughter and all of a sudden, her phone started blowing up because she has the Starbucks app.
Jason: Oh yeah, there’s a Starbucks right in there.
Walt: And at any time…I’m like, “Shut that off!” It’s like Starbucks is reaching into her and grabbing her. I said, “This is crazy!” I never, you know…
Jason: They know. They know.
Walt: They know. It’s like a real…I don’t know. I was irritated but she wasn’t. She said, “Well, lets get a Frappuccino.”
Jason: Yeah, discount, right?
Walt: Absolutely. All right, Jason, thanks for playing along. All right, Amy, over to you.
Amy: And I bet you did get the Frappuccino.
Walt: No! No! I was the hard dad yesterday. We were going home, we were already outside.
Amy: All right, that’s great. Thanks you guys.
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