Doing a lot of digital holiday shopping this year? Then you’re among the estimated 40 percent of holiday shoppers going online who are likely to spend roughly 70 percent more than their in-store-only counterparts.
Those estimates from a retail research group are big news to retailers — and to hackers looking to steal your credit card number, merchandise or identity.
So you’ll want to protect yourself while you’re shopping online.
Geek Squad Agent Rob Duve of Phoenix has some tips that will help keep your personal and payment information protected.
Use a secure network
Open networks are fertile ground for lifting people’s passwords or credit card numbers.
“If you have to use an open network, like in a coffee shop, make sure it’s the shop’s actual Wi-Fi,” Rob says. “Sometimes people will spoof the network to get you onto their own. Then when you’re typing in a password or a credit card number, it’s going straight to them.”
He says to look for “https” in front of the URL and the padlock symbol in the corner.
Even better, he says, is having your own VPN access. There are many affordable VPN services you can subscribe to, and they’re worth it, he says.
“The VPN creates a tunnel directly between your device and the website you are browsing to, so whether you’re making an online purchase or checking account details, your information doesn’t take a detour along the way.”
Use your hotspot
You might be carrying a portable, secure network everywhere you go.
“If you have a data plan to support it, using your cellphone as your own secured hotspot is going to be your best option for shopping,” Rob says. “Just make sure you set it up with a strong password.”
Virtual credit cards
Instead of using your actual credit card number online, Rob recommends using a service like ApplePay or virtual credit cards, which many credit card companies offer as a free service.
“They’ll generate a number only used for online purchases, which is different from your regular card,” he says. “That way if it’s stolen, you minimize your exposure to fraud and don’t have to go through any of the headaches of getting a new credit card.”
Trust reputable retailers
Retailers like Best Buy will have industry standard security on their websites. Smaller retailers and other e-commerce sites might be less trustworthy. Wherever you shop, don’t wander off the main path.
“Those ads on the side can get you in trouble,” Rob says. “Even on a reputable site, you still need to practice smart browsing behavior, like not clicking on pop-ups or ads that can expose your information.”
That’s why it’s important to always have updated security software on your device.
“Have that security software, maintain good browsing behaviors and be on a secure network,” Rob says. “Nothing is foolproof, but following these best practices should get you as close as you can these days.”
Check out this article for tips on keeping your computer secure. And remember, Geek Squad Agents are always ready to help, whether it’s in stores, online, by phone or in your home. Contact an Agent online or stop by your local Best Buy store.