The holiday shopping season is upon us and with that brings scammers looking to trick distracted consumers out of their hard-earned money when it comes to online shopping, we created this article to help you have a smooth holiday shopping experience and avoid online shopping scams.
Create strong passwords for your accounts
Protect your online accounts with a strong and unique passwords for each login. If you can’t keep track of multiple passwords, consider using a password manager to create and store your passwords.
- Use a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Make your password at least 10 characters long.
- Use a passphrase by converting your favorite phrase to an acronym or making a unique phrase from 4-5 randomly chosen letters.
- Share your passwords with anyone.
- Reuse the same password across accounts.
- Use years, names, or other personal information.
- Use common keyboard sequences such as “abc” or “123.”
- Use the word "password".
Remember that legitimate businesses and government offices will never ask you for your password or other personal and account information. This is an immediate red flag and you should ignore or stop communicating with the sender. If you’re not sure whether a message is authentic, you can contact the supposed sender directly to see if there are any issues with your account.
Set up Multi-Factor Authentication
After you’ve created strong passwords for each of your accounts, take the additional step, where possible, of securing your accounts with multi-factor authentication (MFA).
MFA requires users to provide two or more methods of verification to log in to online accounts. After you enter your username and password, you will be prompted to enter a one-time passcode sent to your phone or email. Another option for multi-factor authentication is a fingerprint verification.
Use Face ID or Fingerprint scanning for your apps
As an alternative to entering login credentials for apps like mobile banking, biometric factors such as face ID and fingerprint scanning are an easy and secure way to access your apps. After all, only you have your unique fingerprint and face.
Set up Account Alerts
In online and mobile banking, set up transaction alerts for your checking account, debit card and credit cards so you’ll know right away if any unauthorized transactions occur. If you do see signs of fraud, report it right away and deactivate the credit or debit card associated.
With Secure Benefits from West Shore Bank , you can setup alerts and credit monitoring for fraud protection as well as a variety of other benefits such as cell phone protection, buyers protection, and more.
Safety Tips for Shopping Online
Now that we’ve covered some general Internet safety tips, let’s look more specifically at how to avoid online shopping scams.
1. Don’t shop on public Wi-Fi.
Using a public, unsecured Wi-Fi network makes you vulnerable to hackers. Either use a VPN to encrypt your web activity or avoid online shopping entirely. You should not login to any online accounts either, as hackers may be able to view and steal any financial information or login credentials you enter. Save your online shopping for home–just make sure your personal wireless network is password-protected.
2. Only shop the sites you trust.
Stick with the websites you’ve shopped with in the past and trust. Try to use guest checkout as much as possible–only create an account with a retailer you use frequently. The fewer websites that you give your information to—the better.
3. Verify new sites before making a purchase.
As a supporter of small business, we understand that you may want to make a purchase from an online small business you just found. However, first verify that their site is secure before you enter payment and shipping information.
- Look for the padlock icon to the left of the URL.
- Does the URL begin with “https” instead of just “http”?
- Is there a “Contact Us” page with a street address and phone number, not just an email?
- Search the name of the business–are there any customer reviews?
- See if the business is listed with the Better Business Bureau
4. Ignore “too good to be true” ads.
Everyone is looking for a good deal when holiday shopping. When you see that coveted high-end product or popular toy on sale, your first instinct might be to click on the ad, but it’s important to think before you click.
- If an offer is too good to be true, it’s likely a scam.
- If you see an ad from your favorite retailer and it doesn’t quite look right, go directly to their website to check for the deal.
- Never pay by wire transfer or gift card number. Reputable online merchants should accept a variety of debit and credit cards.
- Beware of suspicious ads online, on social media. and in your email.
5. Identify phishing emails.
Phishing, a play on “fishing,” refers to emails and other messages designed to trick you into giving sensitive personal or financial information to scammers. Fraudsters often impersonate reputable companies and claim there is a problem with your account or order. All you have to do is click on a link to resolve the issue. However, providing your login credentials will give the scammer your personal information and access to your online account. So, learn how to identify and avoid phishing emails:
- Unusual word choices such as “kindly”
- A sense of urgency, threat, or pressure
- Hover your cursor over the link to view the full URL
If you receive an email about one of your accounts and you’re not sure it’s legitimate, contact the business directly.
6. Read seller and product reviews.
On “marketplace” sites like Amazon, Ebay, and Etsy, customers are often buying from individual sellers who don't have a physical store or website. It’s important to read product and seller reviews before making a purchase. On Amazon, you may want to stick to items that are sold from or fulfilled by Amazon. In general, if something feels off or fishy about a seller, don’t buy from them.
7. Read the refund and exchange policies.
Before you make an online purchase, review the website or individual seller’s return or exchange policy. If it’s a gift, how long is the return window in case your recipient wants to pick out something different. Also check for a refund policy–what happens if your item is not received?
8. Shop with a credit card.
West Shore Bank can help you shop safely online with one of our personal credit cards.
Making a Real Difference
As a trusted local bank, West Shore Bank we believe that one of the best ways to arm yourself against fraud is with information. If you think your West Shore Bank accounts have been compromised, contact us immediately by calling (888) 295-4373. You can also find more information about fraud prevention.