Tips for safe, online shopping this holiday season

With Cyber Monday just around the corner and the holiday season in full swing, the South Carolina Department of Revenue (SCDOR) wants to remind South Carolinians of safe online shopping tips.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 165 million consumers are expected to shop Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. Retail analyst eMarketer predicts that Monday will be the biggest online shopping day in history with spending projected to surpass $10 billion, part of a first-ever $1 trillion holiday season. The Holiday 2019 Consumer Trends Report from the NRF states that 73% of consumers plan to use their smartphone or tablet to research or make a purchase this holiday season.

If you’re planning to do online shopping this holiday season, while you’re making your list and checking it twice, don’t forget about cyber thieves. Check out these tips, adapted from cybersecurity leader Symantec and the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, to keep your online shopping safe, merry, and bright:

  • Only shop at trusted websites. If you find a gift at a price that sounds too good to be true, it may be. Some sites exist just to collect credit card information and offer rock-bottom prices to lure shoppers.
  • Don’t use public Wi-Fi when shopping. Cyber thieves like public Wi-Fi because they can intercept shoppers’ signals and collect credit card information and other personal data, like names and addresses. Consider installing a VPN, which creates a secure connection to shield you from hackers.
  • Use strong passwords or passphrases. Use a complex set of at least 10 lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, symbols, or random words and numbers. Don’t use personal information others can guess such as your kids’ names or birthdays. Never use one password for multiple accounts.
  • Use secure websites. Ensure the URL begins with “https” and includes a padlock symbol before providing your credit card information.
  • Use credit, not debit cards. You get the best liability protection when you use a credit card. Federal regulations say you don’t have to pay if a cyber thief racks up unauthorized charges while the credit card company investigates. Most credit card companies offer $0 liability for fraudulent purchases. Some banks offer virtual credit cards, which use randomly issued numbers to link to your account.
  • Make sure your computer is protected. Always keep your security software, apps, and computer’s operating system updated for maximum protection.
  • Save your records. This includes receipts, warranties, cancellation policies, order confirmations, and delivery details. Check your bank statements for unusual charges. Report any fraudulent activity immediately to your bank or card issuer.