LOS ANGELES & SAN JOSE – Online shopping has never been more popular. It’s easier and safer to stay at home and shop from your computer, tablet or phone. For all of its convenience, however, online shopping puts you at greater risk of identity theft, so the Better Business Bureau has some tips that could save you thousands of dollars and lots of headaches.
“We’ve said it before but it bears repeating: scammers have upped their game during the pandemic, and that includes finding more ways to steal your identity,” says Steve McFarland, President & CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Los Angeles & Silicon Valley. “If you give your credit or debit card info to a unsecure site, they can steal your card number and use it to make purchases – or even open up other financial accounts using your identity.”
BBB has these tips to help consumers prevent fraud when shopping online:
- Shop at home using your private Wi-Fi network. Hackers can get into public Wi-Fi networks and steal your information.
- Check the URL. If it starts with “http” it’s not a secure site. Make sure the URL starts with “https.” There should be a lock symbol in the address bar, too.
- Use a credit card. Your card issuer offers protections and an easy way to get your money back. If a hacker gets hold of your debit card info those funds will be automatically deducted from your bank account until the issue is resolved.
- Use your card’s security features. Some credit cards have special features like a temporary virtual card number. If it’s compromised, you just cancel it and inform your issuer. Also ask if you can set up alerts for suspicious activity.
- If you’re buying a gift card online, buy only from known sellers. Even better, it’s safer to buy gift cards in the store.
- If you’re using a gift card while buying online, be very careful and make sure you’re doing business with trusted sellers. Otherwise, you have little recourse for a refund.
If you think your identity has been stolen during a transaction:
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission and with your local police.
- Let your card issuer know right away.
- Contact a credit bureau so they can put restrictions that make it harder for criminals to apply for credit using your information.
- Change your passwords.
- Keep an eye on your credit and consider freezing your credit temporarily to prevent new lines of credit from being opened with your information.
“Investing a little time in extra precautions could pay off in security and peace of mind this holiday season,” says McFarland.