Safe Sales: 8 Tips for Keeping Your Data Safe & Secure This Holiday Shopping Season

By Gal Ringel
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By Gal Ringel, Co-Founder & CEO of Mine Privacy Ops

If you’re busy planning your holiday shopping this month, you’re not alone. Q4 is always the busiest time of year for shoppers and retailers, chock-full of shopping celebrations like Singles’ Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, among others. In 2021, online holiday sales reached $211.41 billion, and this year, shoppers are predicted to spend $209.7 billion, a 2.5% YoY growth for the holiday season.

Is Online Shopping Safe?

As Covid pushed the pendulum ever closer to ecommerce supremacy, more people are shopping online in 2022 than ever before, with the usual holiday spike already upon us. That means more people unaware of the risks online shopping presents (other than overspending).

The holiday shopping season brings with it many e-commerce scams and setups aimed at both consumers and companies, including data breaches, counterfeit scammers selling fake goods, and fake phishing pages designed to steal people’s personal and financial details for  monetary exploitation and identity theft.

Businesses have been quick to ramp up websites to match consumer shopping trends, but cybersecurity measures are lagging behind. That makes this holiday shopping season particularly precarious for consumers, who should keep these tips in mind to safeguard their data as they browse gifts for their loved ones.

Naughty or Nice: Online Shopping Safety Tips

Despite the above warning, there’s no reason to limit your online experiences, and we encourage you to continue your holiday shopping as planned, although you should pay extra attention to specific elements.

  1. Buy from websites you know and trust: Scammers like to set up fake websites that resemble familiar brands. These websites are likely to appear after the first few pages of an online search, but not always. By visiting a page you know and have shopped at before, you are less likely to buy fake goods or give your payment details to the wrong people.
  2. Type in the URL: If you get a tempting offer via email or text, search for the brand’s website and make sure the offer is actually there. There’s no reason to click unfamiliar links that could scam or phish you. Pay close attention to URL spelling errors in any links sent to you, and remember that serious brands are far less likely to operate websites with an ending other than .com.
  3. Seek the lock: The padlock icon you see on every major website isn’t just a decoration. It representsSSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption protecting shopping websites. If you don’t see this icon and the URL doesn’t begin with HTTPS—you should think twice before giving away your payment details. HTTPS is the secure and updated version of HTTP, so make sure a site starts with that too before you buy.
  4. Use strong passwords: It’s 2022, and 50% of users still use passwords like “1234” and “password.” 51% use the same password for multiple accounts, risking a significant data loss if one is revealed. Sure, remembering all those crazy combinations may be challenging, but it also makes it challenging for hackers to access your bank account or steal your identity. Whenever possible, choose two-step authentication and pay using an online payment system like PayPal, which encrypts your payment information.
  5. Read reviews: Before making a purchase, read a few reviews and see if the site seems legit. Can scammers fake reviews? Sure, but it’s more of an effort. Reviews are a part of the overall trustworthiness of the shopping experience, so consider them another step in your evidence-gathering process.
  6. Don’t be gullible: Brilliant deals are always exciting, but double-check everything on the website. If something sounds unreasonably generous Don’t be tempted to save money if it might cost you a lot more–especially if one of the above security concerns is present on the site.
  7. Only provide necessary details: If a website asks for personal information that doesn’t feel relevant, runaway. This may be scammers attempting to commit identity theft disguised as a legitimate shopping experience. Generally speaking, you should apply this approach to any website you visit and refrain from sharing information without getting reasonable value in return.

Done Shopping? Don’t Forget to Clean Your Footprint

Our eighth and final tip is actually for after the shopping ends.

If you feel like you’ve given too many online services your personal and payment data (which is probably the case for most of us, with the average person’s digital footprint at roughly 350 companies), there’s a way to regain control. Mine allows you to own your personal information without limiting your online experiences, all for free.

The quick and free process will reveal every service that has collected your data in the past, after which you can take back your data from any service that you don’t use or don’t feel comfortable with having your data on record.

So once you’re done buying gifts for loved ones, give yourself the greatest gift of all and minimize your digital footprint and online exposure.

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