It’s nearly that time of year again!  Time for family & friends, holiday cheer, the magic of Christmas, warm fires, cut-out cookies, work parties, running around like a lunatic shopping….gaining ten pounds from attempting to comfort yourself with food after all the insanity of shopping….

Take it easy this year.  Do a little shopping online. Grab your computer, a cup of tea and plop in your favorite cushy chair.

But be protected.

We’ve compiled a few tips for safe online shopping in your pjs.

Watch your connection.

  • Don’t use public wi-fi to shop. Public networks are not secure, leaving you susceptible to attack. You wouldn’t stand in the town square holding a cardboard sign with your credit card number on it, don’t use public wi-fi.
  • Only input personal information on sites beginning with https (not http). The “s” means secure site and you will find a little lock icon next to it.
Note the lock and the “s”.

Stick with the familiar.

  • Stick to sites you know: amazon, Walmart, Kohl’s, etc. If you find something you’d like to purchase on a site you’re not familiar with…
  • Research it! Do a google search for the store name.  You can generally find information about the site, see if they have social media pages, find reviews of their store, etc.  This doesn’t guarantee they’re safe, but it helps.

But don’t forget the small businesses.

  • We’re all about supporting small business, so if you’d like to shop small, you can always shop on secure sites like etsy & artfire for handmade items. You’re buying from small businesses, but searching & paying through larger, secure companies.

Keep an eye on your email.

  • Watch for misspellings in the site name & in any emails they send you. Example: paypall (note the second “l”) or amazom (note the “m” instead of “n”. If any email you receive from a known company has obvious grammatical errors, that’s a red flag.
  • During the holidays particularly, watch for emails from UPS, FedEx & the Postal Service. Unless you’ve signed up directly with those sites for tracking updates, you shouldn’t receive tracking information from them via email. Hackers send emails regarding packages and make it appear to be from one of those shipping services.  Err on the side of caution and sign directly into the site you purchased from instead to check on tracking.
  • Also note that no real company will ask for personal or credit card information via email. If you get any type of fraudulent email, report it to the FTC or FBI.

Pay securely.

  • Use PayPal or your credit card if possible. PayPal and most credit card companies take fraud seriously and will usually stop or reverse fraudulent charges quickly.

We know it’s the season of giving, but…

  • Don’t give away too much! Do not divulge personal information that isn’t necessary to the transaction like social security numbers, birthdates, etc. (Only fill in the required information).
  • Don’t let sites save your credit card or bank account information. No one wants to get off the couch to dig through their wallet or purse looking for their credit card….that’s why companies offer to store your card information.  While larger companies are generally safe to shop with, they are also more likely to be targeted for hacker attack (larger quantity of customers = larger amount of credit card information).

Check your credit card statement regularly.

  • Part of safe online shopping is keeping an eye on purchases. Particularly during shopping season, be sure to check your online credit card statement frequently so fraudulent charges won’t slip past you.

Go with your gut.

  • If you’re on a site or see an email that just feels off, err on the side of caution.

Buy yourself some new PJs.

  • Now that you know the keys to safe online shopping, you’ll probably be spending a lot of time in your jammies. Because your jeans still won’t fit due to holiday weight…but this year you won’t gain it because of stress…this year it’ll just be because cookies are just so darn tasty.

Remember, be vigilant.  Technology is inherently fallible and hackers are crafty. If despite your best efforts you suspect you’ve been compromised, see our post What To Do If You’ve Been Hacked. If you’re local to Northampton, PA come visit us at DRC Technologies on 2005 Main St.

All of us at DRC Technologies wish you and yours a safe, relaxing, tasty, and Happy Holiday season!

Happy shopping!

– Shannie

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