Friday, December 13, 2013

7 Must-Read Safety Tips For Online Holiday Shopping

Hitting the malls during the holidays usually leads to one thing—a headache. They’re overcrowded, lines are long, and there’s never any parking. Yuck! So, if you’re like most mall haters out there, you’ve probably turned to the Internet in a noble effort to get all your holiday gifts without ever having to set foot in a mall. Seriously, what could be better?

Well, online shopping may be amazing and convenient, but like anything else on the web, it can also be dangerous. Cybercriminals love the holiday season, and they’re well aware of people’s desire to avoid the malls, so they use this time of year to target innocent online shoppers. To avoid becoming a target yourself, check out the list below of seven must-read safety tips for online holiday shopping!

1. Be Extra Careful On Craigslist

Craigslist may not fall into the “online shopping” category since the transactions usually take place in person. But they do begin online, which means that safety is extremely important. If you find an item on Craigslist that you want to purchase as a holiday gift, make sure the item lives up to its description. You can ask the seller for additional photos, or even go check out the item in person before you agree to buy. Remember, Craigslist has been the center of some pretty heinous crimes lately, so you should always meet the seller in a public place, and never, ever, go alone. An even better option is to look the seller up on a site like to make sure you’re not making a deal with a criminal!

2. Only Purchase From Secure Websites

When you’re browsing the web in search of that perfect gift for your loved one, you have to keep an eye out for sketchy websites. Trust me, they’re everywhere, and if you enter your credit card information on one of these sites, it could lead to a world of problems for you and your bank account. Before you make a purchase, always make sure the “lock” icon is present on the left-hand of the web URL, and that the site’s domain begins with https and NOT http (the s stands for secure).

3. Secure Your PayPal Account

These days, many sites allow shoppers to pay using PayPal. This option is great because you don’t have to manually enter your credit card on the site; it just pulls the information from your PayPal account. That being said, you need to make sure your PayPal account is secure because there have been incidents of mass hackings on the site. The best way to protect your account is to make sure you have a strong password. This infographic is extremely helpful in outlining the step-by-step process of creating a hacker-proof password.

4. Save All Payment Confirmations

You never know when a payment discrepancy will pop up, so it’s best to be prepared for any situation. When you purchase your items, the checkout page will usually have an option that says something like, “Email me a copy of my receipt.” You should always check this box because then you’ll have documentation of your payment straight from the website itself. If a payment issue arises, this type of evidence is much stronger than simply showing the charge on your bank statement. It’s also a good idea to always pay with a credit card in case you need to dispute the charge.

5. Review Ebay Users’ Ratings Before Buying Their Items

Ebay used to have a reputation for selling second-hand goods, but the site became a mecca for online shoppers once they realized that new items are just as common. No matter who you’re shopping for, or what they like, you’re almost guaranteed to find the perfect gift on Ebay. But, make sure you only buy from reputable sellers, because the last thing you want is to get jipped by some shady user. Under each seller’s username, you’ll see their rating, which includes the number of items they’ve sold in the past, as well as their customer reviews. Always read the reviews first so that you can make sure you’re buying from a top-rated seller.

6. Never Pay Via Wire Transfer

If a website or online seller asks that you pay using a wire transfer service like Western Union, you should run for the hills because that’s just plain shady. This is how cybercriminals get your money and then disappear off the face of the earth. Even if the gift you think you’re buying is perfect . . . don’t do it!

7. Sign For All Package Deliveries

There’s a growing trend where criminals hang out in neighborhoods around the holidays just waiting for the UPS or FedEx man to pull up. Why? Well because criminals know that lots of people do their holiday shopping online, which means their packages will be delivered to their door. If the recipient is not home, the packages will be left on their doorstep, and that’s when the crooks strike and snatch those packages right up. If you don’t want your packages stolen, all you have to do is choose the shipping option that says, “Sign for delivery.” That way the delivery drivers are required to get a signature in order to drop off the package. If you’re not home, they’ll try again the following day, but they definitely won’t leave the packages outside your door.
Do YOU have any additional safety tips for online holiday shoppers? Let us know in the comments!

Jennifer Holden is a blogger from Columbus, OH. She specializes in writing about online safety and security.