René Nourse, CFP®
There’s no doubt that online shopping and banking have come leaps and bounds over the few years. Being able to take a picture of a check in order to deposit it, shopping for groceries from our living rooms, and even being able to find that perfect present last minute that your niece requested and having it gift wrapped and delivered straight to her—all from the convenience of your computer, smart phone, or tablet is something many of us never imagined a couple of decades ago.
But despite the ease these processes bring us, they also unfortunately can open the door to potential online identity fraud or theft. However, there is good news. There are safety measures you can take when shopping and banking online to prevent these issues from rearing their ugly head.
1. Use A Prepaid Gift Card
If you are really cautious about putting your credit card information online, there are alternatives for smaller purchases. Prepaid gift cards that you can load with money ahead of time can allow you the convenience of online shopping without having to put your credit card information out into cyberspace.
2. Password-Protect Important Information
While there are several apps and websites that allow you to keep track of all your passwords for you, it never hurts to have an actual hard copy of your passwords tucked away somewhere safe. If you just have to have this information actually on your computer, be sure to put it into a password-protected document that only you can open. Even a lightweight application such as the iPhone’s Notes has the capability to lock individual note with a password. (Just don’t forget your password to unlock your passwords.)
3. Use Credit Only
Avoid any online purchases that ask for cash, checks, or virtual cash payments only. Only do business with sites that accept credit cards and provide secure processing.
4. Check Your Statements
Get into the habit of checking your online bank statements through your bank’s website or mobile apps. By seeing your purchases and withdrawals in real time, you can verify that you have approved all of those purchases. It’s one of the fastest ways to catch anything fishy.
Do your passwords look like this, or are they just the name of your pet plus a number? Be sure to create a difficult password that is jumbled together with a wide range of upper case and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Make sure they are always longer than 8 characters.
6. (Password) Variety is the Spice of Life
Use different passwords for different accounts! If one of your accounts gets hacked into, and you’re using the same passwords for several other online accounts, you never know who could have access to all your information. Make sure your passwords are different for each account—so if only one gets hacked into, it stays at one.
By following these tips, you are taking steps toward creating a more secure online presence. In the event that your identity or credit card information is actually stolen, thought, please report it to your bank immediately.
Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net, nokhoog buchachnon