Renee Schiavone of California is an editor who works from home. She also keeps up with her Frozen-obsessed little girl who uses a magic wand to freeze people. “I plan on doing the majority of my Christmas shopping online Monday,” Schiavone says. “In fact, I've been holding off on buying certain things until Cyber Monday, hoping to score a good deal and free shipping.”
She’ll be joined by Sharon Knight of Colorado who has three little boys under the age of 5. While shopping for deals, Knight keeps safety in mind, “I always make sure that the website I'm shopping on is secure, I check to make sure it is https, not just http,” Knight says. “But other than that, I don't worry very much because I use a credit card that I know will offer me fraud protection, should my account be compromised. I also make it a habit to monitor my credit card activity often, so if a strange charge were to show up, I would find it and be able to deal with it quickly.”
Knight is clearly an informed consumer. In addition to her advice, here are more tips:
Use Secure WiFi
Make sure your home WiFi is locked. Don’t use public WiFi, as it’s insecure. If you’re shopping on your phone, be aware of your surroundings—someone could be watching over your shoulder on crowded public transit or elsewhere.
Update Your Security Software
Yes it’s a pain, but updates are released to protect your devices from newly found threats. Billions of dollars will change hands over the coming days—that’s tempting for the bad guys, so update before shopping.
Use Strong Passwords
Never use a default password. Never use your Social Security number, your mother’s maiden name, a family member’s birthday or other identifying information. Some high profile security breaches in 2014 were the result of hackers simply guessing passwords. Think in terms of upper and lower case, numbers and symbols.
Use Different Passwords for Every Site You Visit
Password security is a burgeoning industry. There are apps that will store your clever user names and passwords. Other management apps generate new passwords and keep them secure. If you only shop on your home computer, an old fashioned paper and pen to track unique passwords is also sufficient.
Consider Using PayPal
That thing that’s been around for almost two decades on eBay? PayPal is accepted by many major retailers. With 148 million active users, it has never reported a major data breach. Never is good.
Keep a Secret
The advice for strong passwords holds true for security questions, sometimes asked at checkout. Don’t disclose Social Security numbers, your mother’s maiden name and other identifying information that can be used across multiple sites.
Do Not Click on Email Links or Attachments
Your inbox will overflow with Cyber Monday deals and offers. Even if an email comes from a trusted source, type the website into your URL or Google it.
The National Retail Federation expects to see $105 billion in e-commerce growth this holiday season, so expect plenty of company in the online checkout line. Nearly 20 percent of all holiday shopping will be done online this year.
And what about websites — are they beefing-up security to intercept cyber threats? The news here is gloomy. At the Privacy Identity Innovation 2014 (pii2014) conference held recently in Palo Alto, Calif., security experts reported that the vast volume of traffic that’s being monitored produces a constant flow of perceived threats. Mark Risher, head of product management for Google Spam and Abuse, said that security systems are “constantly crying wolf” because they see you logging in from multiple devices—your home computer, laptop, tablet, phone, work computer. Another expert candidly remarked that major retailers can’t afford to shut down their sites during holiday shopping even if they identify a real threat—the companies would lose too much business.
Caveat emptor has always been defined “let the buyer beware” of the quality of goods. In 2014, it now extends to the method of purchase.