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Shopping Safely Online

Key Takeaways

  • Before entering your payment or login information, check the address bar of your web browser for a small padlock icon (that indicates the site is secure).
  • Consider two-factor authentication which in addition to a username and password requires a second method of verifying your identity such as a text message.
  • If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

By Melissa Green | Citizens Bank Staff

If you love online shopping, you’re not alone. The Washington Post reports that 8 of 10 Americans make purchases online. Shopping online is easy and convenient — but is it safe? Online hackers are constantly finding new ways to steal your hard-earned money and information. Their actions can be cloaked in the relentless flow of new technologies and apps, making it hard to tell what’s legit and what’s not.

However, there are ways to help keep your identity, and your dollars, safe.

1. Check for security

Before entering your payment or login information, check the address bar of your web browser for a small padlock icon, the address should also start with “https.” Some browsers will also highlight the address bar in green if the page is safe, and red if it is not.

Additionally, when offered, consider two-factor authentication which in addition to a username and password requires a second method of verifying your identity such as a text message.

2. Use a secure payment method

A reputable online store will allow you to check-out with secure payment methods, such as PayPal or credit cards. PayPal and most credit cards have a fraud protection feature, so it’s often advised to use credit cards over debit cards. That way, if the worst should happen, then you won’t be held liable for any fraudulent charges.

Some card issuers will give you a one-time-use virtual card number that’s good for a single transaction, if you are concerned about security.

3. Do your research

If you’re shopping on sites like eBay or Amazon, then check the seller’s reputation and reviews before buying a product there (to see what the shopping experience was like for other customers). Also, read the item description carefully before you buy. You should know where the seller is located, the shipping charges, whether the product is new or used, their refund and return policies, and which payment methods are accepted.

Pro tip: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Unfortunately, that “hot deal” for a new $100 Smartphone is probably a scam.

4. Avoid public Wi-Fi

Try not to shop online when you're using public Wi-Fi networks. It’s easier for hackers to track and log your information in these environments, so it's best to wait until you get home. Either that or use your smartphone’s data network, which is a safer alternative than free Wi-Fi.

5. Look out for fake shopping apps

Similar to “phishing” emails that look like they’re from legitimate stores, fake apps can be downloaded from the App Store® or Google Play™. These counterfeit apps want your credit card information to steal your identity. Some have been found to contain “malware” that can infect your mobile device, while others ask you to log in with your Facebook credentials so they can steal your personal data.

Before downloading an app, check to see if it has been around for a few years and if it has high ratings from users. Never be the first to download a new shopping app. Also, if you’re interacting with brands on social media make sure they’re “verified” — a little blue checkmark by their profile means the company is legit.

What to remember

Shopping online can be safer than going out to a store — if you know what you’re doing. To be safe, make sure you’re dealing with legitimate companies, websites, and apps. Do your research before you buy, avoid using debit cards and public Wi-Fi, and, lastly, make being aware part of your everyday shopping routine.

More information

You can never be too careful when protecting your bank accounts online. Start with the easiest and most affordable tools available. To learn more, visit our security, privacy, and fraud-prevention page for more tips on how to stay safe online.

At Citizens Bank, we understand that you want peace of mind when you bank and shop online. That's why we've partnered with IBM® Security to bring you Trusteer Rapport, free security software designed to make your online banking and shopping more secure than ever.

Note: By downloading and installing IBM® Security Trusteer Rapport® security software you agree with all Trusteer terms and conditions. Citizens Bank is not responsible for, nor do we guarantee, the content or services associated with this product. All problems, questions or concerns regarding IBM® Security Trusteer Rapport® security software should be directed to support@trusteer.com.

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