Shop online at stores you trust
Comparing prices online is a good habit, but the best deal doesn’t always come from a reputable store. That means you should know exactly who you’re buying from and stick to bigger online names, such as Amazon and other established brands, says Gopal Padinjaruveetil, Chief Information Security Officer for AAA.
“Beware of unbelievably low prices,” he says. “Rock-bottom prices should be a big red flag.”
If you do find the perfect gift on an unfamiliar site, research it before purchasing. Padinjaruveetil recommends checking with the Better Business Bureau to see if there’s a history of complaints about the site. Also ensure the website has a valid email address, a legitimate U.S. phone number and a physical address in the U.S.
The same advice applies to shopping apps on your phone or tablet: Use caution before downloading.
Avoid public Wi-Fi when shopping online
The busy holiday season may mean you’re away from home more often, so you may be tempted to buy a gift as soon as you see it online, such as from a coffee shop while connected to unsecured Wi-Fi. But submitting your credit card and other personal information on public Wi-Fi leaves you more open to identity theft. It’s best to wait and make your purchase when you get to a protected network you trust, Padinjaruveetil says.
Use credit cards instead of debit cards
Credit cards—either a physical card or virtual one—generally offer stronger protection against fraud, Padinjaruveetil says. If a criminal uses your debit card, you may not get all of your money back depending on how fast you notice the fraud and take action.
Among the simpler holiday shopping tips: Before you enter your credit card online, look for a lock symbol or “https” in the URL bar of your browser to help ensure your information is secure.
Monitor your credit (and identity)
When you use your credit card, be sure to check your statements once a week for any fraudulent transactions, Padinjaruveetil says. You can also set up credit monitoring for added peace of mind—it’s free to AAA Members through ProtectMyID.
Don’t save your card info
Yes, telling an online retailer to remember your credit card details will be easier for you on your next purchase. But if your account at that store becomes compromised, your card information is vulnerable, too, Padinjaruveetil says.
Refuse to share certain personal info
The info you need to provide when buying something online is pretty standard: name, address, phone number, email and a way to pay. You should never need to give your Social Security, driver’s license or passport numbers to a shopping website, Padinjaruveetil says.
Use strong passphrases