Weekly Columns

The days of driving to the store and waiting in line to buy the perfect Christmas present are fading. In today’s world of e-commerce, we rely more on the Internet to cross off our Christmas lists and fill the stockings. The National Retail Federation predicts nearly half of all shoppers plan to use the Internet to complete their Christmas shopping this year. This opens up doors for those of us to who want to buy from stores far away, allows us to avoid long lines and the convenience of shopping for good deals on our schedule. Unfortunately it also makes it easier to become a victim of fraud and theft. 

There is good reason to be concerned and to take precautions to protect your financial information. Security breaches at national retailers have put millions of consumers’ finances and privacy at risk. A recent poll of Internet users in 24 countries conducted by the Centre for International Governance Innovation, found that 64 percent of people said they are more concerned about their privacy online than they were a year ago, and more than three-quarters are concerned about being hacked and information stolen. Yet 41 percent of people polled believe the chance of their personal information being compromised is not worth worrying about

The reality is thieves constantly work to attack networks to steal our financial information and we need to take preventative measures to protect ourselves, not only during the holidays, but year-round. 

These are some helpful tips the Department of Homeland Security offers for safely shopping online:

  • Use a secure web connection - Be sure you are shopping on a secure site.  Avoid doing any online shopping on unsecure wireless networks, such as places with public and free Wi-Fi. Do your online shopping at home, and make sure your home wireless network is password protected.
  • Choose credit over debit - Laws limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges. Debit cards may not have the same level of protection.
  • Retain records – Keep documentation of your order. Check your credit card statements against purchase records to lookout for charges that you don’t recognize. 

Since online shopping is so prevalent, thieves are taking advantage of this. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns of emails that claim to be a notice about undelivered packages or to learn more about a delivery. The scam email asks shoppers to click on the link or download the invoice, but this action actually uploads a virus to the computer to phish for personal and financial information. 

BBB says the red flags in these email scams are poor spelling and grammatical errors, calls for ‘immediate action’ and company logos without any company address or contact information. When in doubt, contact the company directly. 

Think about online security when shopping for Internet bargains this Christmas season.