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6 Ways to Truly Protect Yourself When You Shop Online

Kalen Bruce | April 3, 2017

It’s 2017. We’re long past the stage of being afraid to shop on the internet, but we also know that we must take precautions against fraud, identity theft and other security measures.

Hackers are getting smarter, and while computers are getting more secure, that doesn’t mean we can just sit back and do what we want. We have to do our part in protecting ourselves when we shop online.

So what are some ways to really stay safe online? I’ve got 6 for you.

1. Don’t get Too Comfortable With Your Personal Info

It’s easy to get used to putting your personal info, to include banking information, into every form you’re halfway interested in online. Yes, we have safe programs that store your information for quicker access, but those programs can’t always decipher the good websites from the bad. That’s up to you.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Shop at websites you know and trust
  • Stick with large, reputable websites
  • Look for the “https” in the address bar
  • Never give out your credit card or banking information over email
  • Give as little information as the form allows, for you to still make the purchase

2. Stay on Top of Your Finances

It’s much easier for people to steal identities and take your information if you’re not paying attention to your finances. You’re practically asking for it these days. If you aren’t paying attention to your budget, you don’t really know if the proper amounts are ever coming out at any given time.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Check your credit card and bank statements regularly (at least weekly)
  • Pay attention to email and text message alerts about strange account activity

3. Use High Quality Antivirus Software

The software that came with your computer may not be good enough. Generally, Mac users find that their overall level of virus protection is pretty good without buying aftermarket software, but many PCs don’t come with good, if any, antivirus software. That doesn’t mean Mac users are off the hook. It’s never a bad idea to get some high quality antivirus software. Either way, remember that just because you’re paying for it, that doesn’t mean it’s good.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Figure out what you have and read reviews on it
  • Get high quality software (start with good free software like Avast)

4. Use Strong Passwords

The importance of this can’t be stressed enough. Password hacking software has the capability to go through thousands of password combinations within seconds. If you have a simple password, you don’t stand a chance in 2017. Strong passwords are no longer only inclusive of letters and numbers. We’ve got to do better than that!

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Use different passwords for different websites
  • Use every character you can use (uppercase, lowercase, numbers, special characters)
  • Consider using a password template that includes some identifying aspect from the site name to help your remember all of your different passwords (e.g. for Amazon, you could use “AM19(your-password)on”)

5. Pay Attention to Your Phone Activity Too

Closed-source phones like iPhones are known for their ability to let you do almost anything without getting a virus or getting hacked. That’s great, but it also causes people to let their guard down, and get caught in a trap. You’re not protected from entering your information into a shady form, or clicking a shady link that wants your credit card information

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Use the same security measures mentioned above on your phone
  • Watch for unusual activity just like you would on your computer

6. Be Careful in Public

You likely already know that it’s not the best idea to log into the local library computer and buy a bunch of products with your credit card. You’re taking a risk by forgetting to logout, using a public network, and by accessing a computer used by hundreds of people. But remember, you’re also taking a risk by using a public wifi network with your personal computer.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Avoid overly used public wifi connections
  • Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when connecting in public

Protect Yourself!

The main thing to remember is to simply be smart about everything you do online.

A little common sense goes a long way when you’re online. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If it seems risky or shady, it probably is. If you have an uneasy feeling about a certain website or transaction, ask yourself if you should really be doing it in the first place.

Staying safe online has a lot to do with preparation, so be prepared by following the tips mentioned above.

Now go and shop wisely!

kalen bruce
Kalen Bruce is the founder of MoneyMiniBlog.com. He defies millennial laws by having no debt and four children.