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Safe online shopping this Christmas season

With  a busy Christmas season where most of us will be shopping online, I thought it would be a good time for a refresher on how to shop online safely. While this time of year is a great time to buy gifts and get a good deal, it also attract cybercriminals looking to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers. In this article, I will cover some tips on how to shop safely online during the holiday season.

Use trusted websites

When shopping online, it’s important to use trusted websites. Stick to well-known, established retailers or websites that you’ve used before. If it’s a local business with a website, then you know it’s probably safe. If you’re not sure if a website is legitimate, do some research first. Look for reviews or complaints online before making a purchase.

Check for secure SSL connections

When entering personal information, make sure the website has a secure connection by making sure there is a lock in your browser address bar. This means the connection is secure with an SSL. Look for the padlock symbol and make sure the web address starts with “https” instead of “http”. This indicates that the website is using encryption to protect the transmission of your information. If it has http – then any information submitted can get intercepted

Use strong passwords

Make sure you’re using strong passwords when creating accounts on shopping websites. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts. If you’re having trouble coming up with strong passwords, consider using a password manager to generate and store them securely.

Beware of phishing scams

Phishing scams are a common tactic used by cybercriminals to steal personal information. These scams typically involve emails or messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a retailer or bank. They often ask for personal information, such as login credentials or credit card numbers. Be wary of any unsolicited emails or messages, and never provide personal information unless you’re sure it’s a trusted source. SMS phishing – also called Smishing – is also a big problem right now. Don’t automatically trust a text message from a retailer or a shipping company asking for personal information unless you were expecting the message.

Keep your software up to date

Make sure your computer and mobile devices are up to date with the latest software updates. These updates often include security patches that can help protect against vulnerabilities that cybercriminals may exploit. Android and iOS basically have constant updates – most happen in the background, but it’s always a good idea to check and make sure that you’re up to date on everything. Especially on your computer, which may not have automatic updates switched on.

Use two-factor authentication

Many websites now offer two-factor authentication as an added layer of security. This involves using a second form of verification, such as a code sent to your phone or an authenticator app, in addition to your password. This can help prevent unauthorised access to your accounts. It’s an extra step that can stop a lot of fraud from happening.

Beware of public Wi-Fi

Shopping or accessing personal information on public WiFi networks can be a security risk, but as long as the websites you access have SSLs installed and if you use a personal VPN (virtual private networks like Surfshark or NordVPN), you’ll be much safer.

Check your accounts regularly

Make sure to check your bank and credit card accounts regularly for any unauthorised charges. If you notice any suspicious activity, report it immediately to your bank or credit card company. But also, beware of smishing text messages that may trick you into thinking there has been fraud on your account. Always get double confirmation of something before you take action.

Support Local Business Online

The most trustworthy businesses are the ones you know personally – so it’s a great time to see if any local businesses you love are online – and if they are – you have that extra layer of trust. Shopping online from local businesses in Ireland is a safe and secure way to support your community while getting the products you need. With the convenience of shopping from home, you can browse and purchase from local businesses that might not have a physical storefront in your area. Many local businesses now have click-and-collect as well. Not only does this support the local economy, but it also reduces the carbon footprint associated with shipping products from further away.

Hopefully, by following these tips, you can help ensure that your online shopping experience is safe and secure during the holiday season. Remember to always be cautious and use common sense when shopping online. Happy shopping!