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Shopping Safe Online

AARP MoneySmarts: 5 Easy Ways to Keep Safe While Shopping Online

More and more of us are doing our shopping online, especially around the holidays – it’s just so darn convenient. As our online shopping increases, so do the numbers of scams and hackers trying to get your information. Here are 5 easy things you can do to keep safe while shopping online.

1. Consider using only a credit card – not a debit card! 

If your debit card is compromised in a data breach, such as what happened with Home Depot, Target, and Michaels, you won't ultimately lose any money that's stolen from your accounts because of consumer protection laws. However, you may have to wait days or weeks before the stolen funds are replaced in your accounts and made available to you. On the other hand, if your credit card is compromised, you can dispute the charges directly with your card issuer without any money leaving your bank account. 

For this reason, it may be a good idea to use a credit card for payment gateways such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, Venmo and PayPal.

Promptly review your periodic statement and your billing statement each month. Immediately report any unauthorized charges to your debit or credit card issuer. Prompt reporting is the key to limiting your liability for unauthorized charges on your stolen card!

It's important to remember to only charge on your credit card what you can afford to pay off each month. In other words: don't carry a balance from month to month. Instead, pay it off in its entirety each time a payment is due. Also, keep in mind that a high credit card balance and missed payments could negatively impact your credit score, in a big way. On the other hand, regular payments and responsible use of credit can improve your credit score. You can read more here. 

2. Shop at only legitimate, secure sites.

If you are browsing, make sure the websites you're using are encrypted. Encrypted sites have URLs that begin with https ¬¬– the “s” stands for secure. 

If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for websites trying to pull you in with “limited time” or “while supplies last” offers. Do a little research to make sure the company has a physical address or phone number you can verify. 

This applies to social media as well. Just because a link came from your friends doesn't mean that it's legitimate. Even if it's a company you recognize, check the URL. Does that look right? Try searching the company name to see if the same URL pops up. The fakes look very real sometimes. 

3. Do not respond to emails requesting personal information.

Legitimate businesses will not send you an email asking you to reply confirming a purchase, payment or account information – they'll just send you a confirmation! If you get an unsolicited email, do not click on the link. Rather, go to the website yourself by typing in the URL, enter your order number, and check your purchase that way.  

4. Monitor your accounts.

Use online and mobile banking to regularly check your accounts for fraudulent transactions. Report any unauthorized charges immediately. Our phone number is 800-233-2328. We're happy to help. 

5. Use strong passwords.

We cannot stress enough the importance of creating strong passwords and changing them frequently. 

It's the season for giving; just make sure you are giving to legitimate charities, and not scammers trying to make a quick buck! Stay safe and good luck in your search for the perfect gifts.