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Online Shopping Tips for the Holidays

By John B. Folkerts, CISSP, Information Security Manager, Canandaigua National Bank & Trust

It is the most wonderful time of the year! Now that the holiday season has arrived many are choosing to do their shopping online to take advantage of online selection and convenience. However, there are some things that you should keep in mind before you decide to push the “Check Out” button on your browser:

  1. Verify Your Sources

    Double check the web site or app that you are planning to use to complete your purchase.

    • Does it show a lock icon (indicating an encrypted website) on the address bar? Is the website address spelled correctly?
    • Do you recognize the vendor? Where are they located? (You may want to avoid international web stores where US consumer protections can not be enforced).
    • Beware of phishing emails. Avoid using links in email – connect directly to the website to ensure you arrive at the site you intended.
  2. Beware of “Free”

    Some online merchants are offering good deals during the holidays, but make sure that you are not engaging with a scammer. “Free” is a powerful motivator. If an offer seems to good to be true, it may very well be a scam.

  3. Skip Autofill!

    Modern web browsers and mobile phones make purchasing as easy as possible. This includes providing autofill capability for name, address, and payment information. Beware that saving information in your browser can potentially expose it to others, either people who have access to your computer in your home or office, or potentially through cyber attacks against your browser. Limit your autofill and limit the potential for your private data to be exposed.

  4. Don’t Save Credit Card Info Online

    One way that thieves can obtain your credit card information is by attacking the web sites of the stores that you buy from online. A simple way to reduce your chances of having your credit card compromised this way is to avoid saving your credit card with that web store. The more stores you’ve saved a card at, the more chances of your card number being stolen.

  5. Keep Track of Account Transactions Pay extra attention to your bank and credit card transactions during this shopping season. Because you may shop at more online stores and a larger variety of merchants, it is easier for unauthorized transactions to be lost in your statement. Sign up for online access to your accounts so that you can see unauthorized transactions quickly and take action. Your financial institution will be better able to help with a case of fraud the earlier they know about it.

These simple actions can help ensure that you and your bank accounts stay safe this holiday season. For more information about protecting yourself online, see https://www.cisa.gov/shop-safely.