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An illustration of a computer with a warning symbol.
An illustration of a computer with a warning symbol.

4 tips for safer online shopping.

Updated September 2023

You could be one click away from getting scammed.

Shopping from home is convenient for us… and for cybercriminals.

Ordering the blender off your sister’s wedding registry? Thinking about a new pair of hiking boots but don’t want to head into a store? Hopping on the web makes it easy to search for items, compare prices, and buy things in just a few clicks.

It also gives scammers multiple ways to get their hands on your personal and financial information.

So, how do you know who you can trust when shopping online? Here are some basic safeguards to practice before you give out your credit card number to online stores:

1. Make sure the website is secure.

Check out that browser bar for two things:

  1. The website's address starts with "https." The "s" indicates a secure connection.
  2. A locked padlock or unbroken key icon in the address bar indicates the site is using encryption to scramble your data, to protect it from being stolen.

2. Stick with secure networks and private computers.

It’s tempting to shop when you’re bored or away from home, but don't buy anything using open networks provided by coffee shops, hotels, or airports. It’s also a good way for hackers to grab your personal information.

While password protected public Wi-Fi is better, it still isn’t 100% safe. If you’re using it, stay off websites that use any of your personal information.

3. Find out who you're dealing with.

Have you come across an amazing product you want to buy, but you’ve never heard of the seller before? It’s time to check to see if it’s a legitimate business. Here’s how:

  • Go through the online reviews.
  • Look at the contact details for a real phone number and address. You can take it a step further and call the business to verify the number.

4. Pay with a credit card or digital wallet.

Using a credit card to buy online helps keep your money safe. A lot of credit card companies offer zero liability protection, which means you're not on the hook for unauthorized transactions in most situations.

Digital wallets, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, are also a good option for online shopping. They store your payment and shipping information under multiple layers of security. Digital wallet services don’t send card numbers with your payment.

That liability with a debit card could be unlimited, depending on the policies of your financial institution. If someone hacks your debit card, they could drain your checking account.

Scammers are tricky. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. You don’t have to go through with buying what’s in your cart if you can’t shake a suspicious feeling about your order.