Tips for a Fruitful but Safe Cyber Monday

With Black Friday just around the corner, savvy shoppers are making plans to score some great holiday gifts and take advantage of the potential savings. But there’s another almost equally lucrative sales day that can offer you some great deals without having to brave the crowds on Friday.

Cyber Monday gets its name from the great internet deals that retailers of every size will promote through their websites and social media channels. While you have to be very careful that you’re not going to accidentally pay just as much or more for the item once you factor in shipping and handling, there are other, even bigger concerns to keep in mind.

One of the first considerations when shopping online is making sure that you’re only entering personal information on trusted websites from well-known retailers. You can easily look to make sure the website has a current security designation; you’ll see HTTPS at the beginning of the web address instead of just HTTP. That means it’s more likely to be trustworthy than if the S was not in place.

When you know which website you want to use, then you’ll need to set up your account. A lot of people mistakenly believe that clicking “checkout as guest” instead of creating a registration—if that’s even an option—means they won’t store your information or add you to their mailing lists, but that’s not entirely accurate. There are some very important things to remember about creating any new account:

  1. You’ll need an email address – You might wonder why they need it, but they have to be able to contact you if there’s a problem with your order. You would like to know ahead of time if your perfect holiday gift is out of stock, right? 

If you’re concerned about privacy, hackers, and spam, you can create a “throwaway” email address that you use for shopping, but do keep this in mind: they have to be able to contact you if there’s an issue with your order, and the ability to email from time to time with great deals on other products is how companies—especially smaller companies—can afford to stay in business. If you create an email just for online shopping, just be sure you check it from time to time for important updates. 

  1. You’ll need a password – This is possibly the single biggest security step that consumers can take to protect themselves online. The right password can mean all the difference between keeping your personal data secure and handing over your entire life to a hacker.

But what is the right password? It’s long, it’s confusing, and it’s only used on one account! The goal is to keep hackers from “guessing” it with complex software, and then keep them from accessing all of your accounts because you used the same password over and over. Remember, use at least eight symbols, a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, some numbers and symbols, and nothing that resembles your name or an easily guessed word. 

  1. You’ll need to pay – Obviously, if you’re shopping online, you’re going to have to pay for those purchases. You can use a credit card or debit card, a gift card, or a mobile payment option that can connect to your existing credit card or bank account. 

One step that privacy-minded consumers take is to designate a specific, low-limit credit card for all of their online purchases. If that card is ever compromised in a web-based data breach, then they know exactly which card was affected and can contact that issuing company to report it. It also helps because they only have one account statement to monitor for any signs of unusual activity, rather than having to watch over all of their accounts.

However, you choose to shop this year, remember that identity thieves, scammers, and hackers are already planning their strategies, too. Stay one step ahead of them by safeguarding your information and being aware of the threat.

Questions about identity theft? Connect with the ITRC through our toll-free call center at (888) 400-5530, or on-the-go with the new IDTheftHelp app for iOS and Android.

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