7 tips to help you stay safe when shopping online this Christmas
2 MIN READ
Christmas is coming. For many of us that means braving the crowds in a rush to get all the prezzies bought in time. But an increasing number of us now combine visits to a busy Main Street with shopping online.
Being able to search for gifts, compare prices and buy from the sofa can make the Christmas shopping a bit less stressful.
But it also comes with some potential risks.
Thankfully, there are some simple and straightforward steps that you can take when shopping online to keep you safe this festive season.
Here are 7 tips from our cyber security specialists.
1 Watch out for fake websites
Stick to the websites of companies you already know. Fraudsters sometimes create fake websites in order to steal personal information including payment details.
‘It’s always best to use trusted websites,’ says Helen Flanagan, Head of Information Security Communications & Awareness at Bank of Ireland. ‘If you haven’t used a website before, do some research first and read some independent reviews about the site before you buy.’
If you know the web address of the company, remember to type it in correctly or use a well-known search engine such as Google or Bing to search for the company and use their results.
Watch out for deals that look too good. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
‘Links to websites through emails, texts or social media can be risky,’ says Helen, ‘so it’s best to just avoid them to be on the safe side, especially at this time of year when you are likely to be inundated with emails promoting special offers.’
2 Look for https and a padlock icon
Before you type any of your personal details into a website page, look up at the top of your screen and check the web address. Does it start with https? Can you see a padlock icon?
It is safer to shop on sites with an https address but trust your instincts. ‘Take into account the whole look and feel of the website,’ because, as Helen points out, ‘fraudsters can create fake websites that can seem genuine at first look.’
3 Don’t shop in public when you shop online
Avoid making card payments on laptops, desktops or tablets that you share with other people or on public computers where your details might be stored, discovered and used by others.
And remember to always log out of websites when you’re finished shopping so that your details are not left for others to find and use.
4 Be WiFi wary
Don’t make card payments on free WiFi available in public places as you cannot be absolutely certain who is providing or monitoring the WiFi network.
‘It’s okay to browse,’ says Helen, ‘but if you want to log on to a shopping site or make an online payment, wait until you’re connected to a secure Wi-Fi network, or use a 3G or 4G connection.’
5 Stop using ‘123456’ or ‘password’ as your password
For years, the two most popular passwords have been ‘123456’ and ‘password’. If you are using these passwords or ones like this you’re making it simpler for hackers to guess your password and get into your account.
And, because people often use the same password across multiple online accounts, hackers might be able to get into all your accounts if they guess right once.
So change your password. Make them long – use a sentence or string three or four random words together. Don’t use something people know or can guess about you, like your birthday or your pet’s name.
6 Keep up to date with your software updates
Keep installing the software updates for your operating system. Updates are provided for a reason. Yes, it may take a couple of minutes to download the latest update but it’s worth it to be protected against the latest security threats.
7 Use the latest version of anti-virus software
While Christmas shopping you might come across a fake link on a pop-up ad online, in an email, text, or in your social media account. Clicking on it may allow malware to download and infect your device.
Protect your computers from viruses by making sure you always have the latest version of anti-virus software installed.
It might not be top of your list but keep an eye on your bank account while you’re doing your Christmas shopping. Check your statements and if you see any unusual transactions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your bank.
It can be a hectic time of year as we rush to buy all the Christmas gifts but, as Helen says, ‘slow down and think about where you’re buying gifts from and how you are accessing the websites.’
Find out more
For a comprehensive guide to the latest tactics used by fraudsters and how you can stay safe when shopping online, please visit Security Zone on the Bank of Ireland website.