More people are projected to purchase their gifts online this year than ever before! With online shopping, however, comes risks. In Part 1 of our Holiday Safety Series we showed how to secure your email to avoid phishing scams and hacking, but how do you protect yourself when you’re ready to tackle your shopping list online?
The online shopping market can be an unfamiliar and complicated place. With these tips we hope to make you feel more confident and secure when shopping online, and provide some ways to protect yourself from the bad actors out there.
1. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Using a VPN is a great solution to avoid scammers when online shopping. A VPN will encrypt your network, securing your connection. It prevents your network connection from being logged or recorded so you’re free to enter your banking credentials without the worry that someone else could be viewing them as well. Especially if you are using a public WiFi network.
FixMeTip: Never shop online using a Public WiFi network. Public WiFi networks are more vulnerable to hacking because they are usually not password protected, meaning your data can easily be stolen when using public WiFi.
Our favorite VPN is NordVPN. It has over 5000 servers in 58 countries which simply means you can maintain your internet speed and get great added protection anywhere.
2. Watch Out For Gift Card Scams
Scammers will often request gift cards as payment because of their difficulty to trace. There has been a wave of recent gift card scams, in which a victim will be contacted by a scammer who may be posing as a government entity, or tech support person. They will ask the victim to purchase a number of gift cards and pass the card information onto the scammer. You may be contacted by a scammer via email, or over the phone.
If you are ever contacted by someone claiming to be a government entity, or tech support person requesting payment in gift cards make sure to steer clear! No legitimate business will ever request shady payments like this. This goes for wire-transfers, or cryptocurrency as well. And remember to never give out any personal information online or over the phone.
Scammers will also make their phone numbers appear like legitimate businesses. To determine if you’re speaking with a scammer, look out for these red flags:
- Requesting unusual payment methods, like gift cards, cryptocurrency or wire transfers
- Automated voice messaging with vague legal threats
- Asking for personal information – if a legitimate company reaches out to you, they would already have the information they need on file
Want to learn more about how you can spot a scam? Take our quiz here!
3. Make Sure Your Gift Cards and E-Gifts are Legitimate
Another way gift card scammers operate is by selling illegitimate gift cards online at a discounted price.
A recent stint of gift card scams circulated on Facebook, in which resellers toted high-value gift cards for a low cost. Before purchasing gift cards from a reseller, take down the bar code. You can then call the business and ask them to confirm the remaining funds on the card.
Alternatively, you can purchase legitimate gift cards, or e-gifts from the official business, whether it is a brick and mortar store or their official website. You might miss out on the attractive deals from some resellers, but you could be saving much more in the long run by ensuring your gift cards are worth what they claim to be.
This goes for subscription products too – like the FixMeStick and StartMeStick. If you purchase an old FixMeStick or StartMeStick from someone reselling it online, unfortunately, we can’t confirm that you’ll receive the legitimate product with a full subscription. This is why we always recommend purchasing our products directly from our website or on Amazon with “Sold by FixMeStick, Fulfilled by Amazon“. That way you’re protected from scammers!
Click here to learn about more online shopping scams to watch out for.
4. Only Connect to Secure Websites
How do you know if you’re on a secure website? Look for the little padlock icon at the beginning of the web address. You can also confirm a secure network by the first 5 characters: ‘https’ means secure, ‘http’ is not secure.
You might ask ‘what is the difference between a secure and insecure site?‘A secure website will encrypt your data, whereas an insecure site will not. This is a benefit because any saved personal data that is encrypted, is therefore indecipherable. An insecure network can more easily be hacked by people who may want to steal your data. If you see both the lock icon, and the ‘s‘ in https, the website is secure.
FixMeTip: Avoid risky websites and scams before they happen with McAfee Total Protection. McAfee will provide clear warnings if the website you’re on is too good to be true. Check out our exclusive offer here!
5. Use Your StartMeStick
The StartMeStick is a foolproof solution for secure online shopping. It keeps you private from mass surveillance, therefore companies won’t be able to collect your user data to track and predict your shopping habits, or feed you targeted advertising.
The StartMeStick also resets to factory settings after every use. In other words, you start with a fresh computer every time you plug in the StartMeStick. So it doesn’t save any of your online activity, for example, your credit card information or the websites you visited.
Check out our StartMeStick FAQ page for answers to even more of your questions!
Did we miss something? Let us know how you protect yourself while online shopping in the comments below!
Stay safe and happy holidays from your friends at FixMeStick!