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5 simple strategies to stay protected shopping online

Dec 10, 2018 Philip Burgess

5 simple strategies to stay protected shopping online

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Though it's been observed for more than a decade now - established in 2004 - this year's incarnation seems particularly appropriate, given the expansion of the "Internet of Things" era and the regularity with which breaches seem to be happening. 

So common, in fact, Americans now fear the effects of identity theft more than they do terrorism. In a recent poll conducted by FICO, approximately 45 percent of respondents cited identity theft and banking fraud as their chief worry, more so than terrorism, which 18 percent of participants cited as their leading concern. Specifically, 86 percent of consumers said they had fear their Social Security numbers would be stolen and 76 percent fretted over the theft of their bank account data.

"Human beings hate to lose," said Bob Shiflet, vice president of FICO's fraud business line. "The survey confirms the psychology of loss aversion, especially when it comes to money and the likelihood of an event happening to us. The loss of your personal information or money from your account cuts deep, it is a violation, and people now know it's much more likely to happen to them."

Online buying more common than ever

Although identity theft is nothing new, the omnipresence of the internet has increased access, as online shopping has become so common that many brick-and-mortar retailers have closed some of their outlets, with foot traffic down considerably and buyers opting in favor of the point-and-click method. For example, non-store sales during the holidays in 2016 reached $122.9 billion, up 12.6 percent from 2015, according to the National Retail Federation. Many of those who purchased did so through banking services, paying with checks, debit cards and the like.

As online shopping has increased, so have security breaches.

But the underbanked - which comprise approximately 24.5 million U.S households and 51 million adults, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation - have the ability to purchase goods and services online as well, as more options - like Amazon Cash - are coming to the forefront.

Thus, the unbanked and underbanked who use alternative credit data need to implement the same robust security measures that the fully banked do - If not more so, given they may be in positions that make them more vulnerable to the consequences of identity theft.

The National Cyber Security Alliance offers some basic steps buyers can use to shop safely on mobile devices, desktops and laptops.

Trash unsolicited emails

The internet is teeming with retailers, many of which are exclusively e-commerce. But through so-called "phishing," scammers attempt to fool buyers by getting them to click on links that are malicious. If you're sent an unsolicited email that bills itself as authentic, it's best to delete the email than click on it. You could usually tell if the email address is misspelled or unusually lengthy.

Use credit cards

Credit card companies are getting better and better at detecting fraudulent transactions and will often inform the card owners that their accounts have been hacked. Plus, the NCSA suggests buying with credit card providers because they can cancel the transaction or issue credit if the purchase was legitimate but the seller never sent what was bought.

Do your homework

In a bid to woo consumers, e-commerce companies may sell merchandise at very affordable prices. But this can often be a come-on. If a quote seem too good to be true, check with buyer beware resources to see if any complaints have been filed. Examples include the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission.

Check the web address

The beginning of the URL of an e-commerce website can be all you need to know as to whether a company is for real or not. NCSA warns only to shop at websites where there's an "s" attached to the end of the http, depicted as "https." This guarantees the site is secure.

Be password smart

More companies that have user accounts require customer passwords to be of a certain length and contain multiple characters. Take advantage of this feature to make your password as unique as possible. Also, instead of allowing your computer to remember the password, opt instead to write it down someplace secure. This helps reduce the risk of data being compromised should your laptop, smartphone or tablet fall into the wrong hands.

At Microbilt, we prioritize online security throughout the year, not just in October. Microbilt offers an intelligent suite of ID verification and authentication tools so transactions are always made with confidence and quality assurance.