In a recent post, we talked a little bit about the trending online hack of e-skimming and its potential to put a major wrinkle in your holiday shopping if you’re not careful about online purchasing. As a brief refresher, e-skimming occurs when a hacker edits a website’s script code and captures a consumer’s credit card information in real time as they enter it.
The FBI is already well aware of this hacking tactic, yet what makes e-skimming problematic is that it’s difficult to recognize and users may not realize there’s a problem until weeks or even months down the road. Couple the e-skimming threat with the fact that it seems like at least one major retailer encounters a significant data breach every holiday season, and this holiday shopping season could potentially be even more treacherous than the last. Noting this, practicing good online safety and taking the necessary steps to stay safe becomes even more important. Here’s a look at what you need to know this holiday season in order to stay safe online:
- Use a third-party payment method: PayPal, Apple Pay, Venmo (if applicable) and Google Pay are all great ways to pay and keep your credit card information safe. This is because when you pay via one of these third-party services when making an online purchase, the retailer will never see your payment information. Your credit card information is already stored via the third-party method, so there’s no information that’s there for the taking.
- Beware of online retailer ads: One of the ways retailers share promotions and sales is through the use of online ads, but if an advertisement looks odd, don’t click on it. There’s a chance it could be taking you to a site that’s attempting to impersonate the retailer. And then if you put in your credit card information to make a purchase on it, you could have it swiped out from under you.
- Don’t make an online transaction unless the website is secure: The next time you’re online shopping, look up at your browser and make sure there’s a lock icon on the far-left hand side. This means that you have established a secure connection. You should never make an online purchase on a retailer’s site if the connection is not secure.
- Use virtual credit cards: Think of virtual credit cards as temporary numbers that don’t reveal any sort of actual credit card information on the accounts that they’re linked to. These can be created on various financial websites or perhaps even with your own credit card holder. If they get hacked, you won’t be out any hassle — you’ll just need to switch up your virtual card number.
- Make sure your passwords are unique: We know, it’s a pain to have to enter a password for seemingly every single online account that you have, so it can be natural to just create one password and then use it universally. But that’s not a good idea, largely because if a hacker is able to swipe one of your passwords, they may be able to easily access numerous different accounts of yours. So make sure you have a different, unique password for every important account that you hold.
- Don’t make purchases over public Wi-Fi: Don’t trust public wireless networks, as you have no idea how secure they really are and don’t know who could be spying on them. If you’re going to make any online purchases, make sure you either do it from your phone’s cellular data or your home Internet network.
We’ll end this post with two tips. One, always use a credit card over a debit card when performing any online shopping. Why? Because it’s much easier to dispute charges to your credit card, whereas any debit card hack involves a much more tedious reimbursement process. And two, check your credit card statement! You likely won’t know there’s a problem if you can’t actually identify it! Checking your statements regularly this holiday season is a way to ensure that you’re monitoring any activity.
Here’s to wishing you a safe, healthy and happy holiday season!