Online shopping has become a convenience many people rely on and take advantage of almost daily. It’s so easy to order whatever you need from the comfort of your sofa and have it all delivered right to your front porch. As more shopping malls and discount stores are shuttered due to decreasing foot traffic, online bargain hunting has become a necessity. That means learning how to shop safely online is important.

For those who are less tech-savvy, it’s easy to fall into traps that can cost you a lot of money. Research shows as many as 50% of Americans who shop online have experienced a cyber hack. The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center estimates people over the age of 65 lost $3.1 billion in 2022 alone.

What can you do to protect yourself while shopping online? We have a few tips that might help you stay safe.

Be On Guard Against Online Shopping Scams

  • Use credit cards, never debit cards.

Debit cards might help you avoid overspending, but they can also put your bank account at risk for hacking and fraud. This is especially true when shopping online. If you pay for an order by debit card and the site is a scam, a thief can empty your financial account before you realize something is wrong. While your bank will usually return the funds eventually, your accounts may be frozen until the investigation is complete. In contrast, when you use a credit card to make a purchase from an illegitimate website, the credit card company will usually take quick action to protect your account.

  • Stick to stores you know and trust.

Social media is another way criminals target people for fraud. Scammers buy ads featuring attractive clothing, vacations, and household items for too-good-to-be-true prices. People click on the links not realizing they aren’t legitimate companies. Shoppers’ products never arrive, their credit card numbers are stolen, or both. Avoid this problem by making online purchases only from stores you know and trust, such as those you’ve visited in person. Also, be sure you go directly to the store’s website using a Google search. Never click on and follow links you receive via email or on social media, no matter how realistic they look.

  • Check site security before ordering.

Another essential safety tip for online ordering is to verify the website is secure. It’s fairly easy to do. Check to make sure the site’s web address begins with “https” and has a tiny icon of a lock next to it. That combination signals a site is secure. If you don’t see that lock or the “s” after “http,” it’s best to avoid shopping on the site. Doing so might put you at risk for identity theft or other types of financial scams.

  • Monitor financial accounts.

Finally, make it a habit to check your financial accounts regularly. That might mean not setting up your accounts to pay bills automatically. When you do so, it’s tempting to skip routinely reviewing online statements. That could lead to fraudulent activity being unnoticed for months. Apply this practice to credit cards, investment accounts, and banking. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of alert systems most financial institutions have available. You can set up notifications so you are contacted by phone or text when a major charge is made, an account balance reaches a pre-set limit, or there is a login from a new device.

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