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How to Safely Shop Online This Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Nov. 25, 2015
Black Friday, Shopping
How to Safely Shop Online This Black Friday and Cyber Monday
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According to the National Retail Federation, almost half of this year’s holiday shopping will be done online. If you’re among the millions planning to look for the best digital deals on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or beyond, there are a host of safety and security measures to consider.

Fraudulent behavior on the Internet has increased by 30% in the past year, according to ACI Worldwide, a company that processes payments and security transactions. No matter what you’re buying online, it’s smart to use a secure Internet connection, vary your account passwords, and log out of websites whenever you’re done shopping. Some other tips:

Ensure the site is secure

Many of us use Google to find what we’re looking for, but keep your eye on the website’s URL once you’re there. You’ll want to make sure you’re on a website that has an encryption system, meaning it’s more difficult for hackers to find out your personal information. You’ll be able to tell right away if the site is secure by whether it has an “s” in the URL. You can feel secure on sites that start with “https” rather than just “http.”

We also recommend sticking to store sites you already know. If you find yourself browsing a site that you’re not familiar with, search online for customer reviews and check to see whether the company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau.

Use credit cards rather than debit cards

Although the thought of charging a big-ticket item on a credit card makes some people nervous, using a credit card rather than a debit card is a more secure way to shop. (Just be sure to pay your bill on time and in full.) Credit cards have better consumer protections than debit cards do. If you do see strange charges, contact your credit card company immediately; many can ensure cardholders won’t pay for items they didn’t charge. Chip cards are more secure than cards with only magnetic stripes. If you don’t have a chip card yet, request one from your credit card company. Also be mindful that just because your credit card has a chip doesn’t mean you’re fully protected.

Buy gift cards from the source

Gift cards are an easy solution for the hard-to-shop-for person on your list, but if you plan to buy your gift cards online, it’s best to go straight to the store’s website rather than a third-party seller. This eliminates the risk that your card won’t have the amount of money that was originally promised.

Read the fine print

It’s easy to glaze over the fine print in ads or on receipts, but odds are if the print is small, the information is important. The small print can include key intel on delivery fees, return/refund policies or warranties, for instance.

Guard your Social Security number

If a site asks for your Social Security number and you’re just making a simple transaction, that’s a red flag for fraud. Shopping websites shouldn’t need that information — or much else, for that matter, beyond your name, shipping address and credit card number. 

Always save receipts

With online purchases, it’s important to keep a paper trail you can access later. Set up a “receipts” folder or tab in your email or print out receipts and save them in a folder. If your order changes or it’s incorrect, you’ll have a record to refer back to.  

The bottom line

No matter whether you’re shopping on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or any day of the year, getting into the habit of following these tips can save you a lot of trouble.

Image via iStock.