Shopping in the digital realm is not only convenient, it puts the world of retail right at your fingertips. Where else can you buy a new pair of shoes, batteries in bulk, and custom-made crafts in a matter of minutes but online? But as anyone who has shopped online knows, it comes with a small degree of risk. Though security measures get better every year, there is still the risk of identity theft when buying items online. A little effort on your part can go a long way to prevent identity theft – and protect your bank account:
1. Only Buy from Legitimate Outlets
One of the simplest measures you can take is buying only from reputable and trusted outlets. Think Amazon.com or Target.com – these sites are known to be legitimate businesses, and they have demonstrated time and time again that they are safe to use. If you come across a site that looks fishy, the odds are good that it is fishy. Don’t use it!
2. Use a Credit Card (Rather Than Debit)
In the event that your personal information is stolen, would you rather that information be tied to your personal bank account, or to a credit card with a set limit (and one which can easily be canceled)? Using a credit card rather than a debit card can help minimize your risk for loss.
3. Don’t Access Sensitive Accounts on Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi networks are great for browsing online or streaming music while out and about, but think twice before you conduct online banking or make an online purchase on a public Wi-Fi network. If you do insist on using public Wi-Fi to access private or personal information, consider leveraging a virtual private network (VPN) to do so. You may also want to enact two-factor authentication to make it more difficult for would-be identity thieves to access your data.
4. Review Your Online Statements
To ensure that your banking information has not been stolen, it always helps to stay vigilant and alert. If your credit card or banking account information has been compromised, thieves may first attempt to test these accounts by making small purchases. Such small purchases may slip under your nose if you aren’t keeping a close eye on your accounts. If you notice anything suspect, alert your bank at once.
5. Use Apple Pay or Google Wallet
Another way to minimize your risk of identity theft is through the use of secure payment platforms. Two of the best are Apple Pay and Google Wallet. These payment platforms come with a number of security measures already in place, including fraud protection, data encryption, and password protection.
6. Use Devices with Built-in Security Features
If you’re using a smartphone or tablet to shop online, only use devices that are equipped with state-of-the-art mobile processors. Some mobile processors, such as the Snapdragon series, include mobile security suites that provide secure hardware and software protection. If you leave your phone unattended, for example, these processors can act as a theft prevention solution. Buy a smartphone that does the work for you!
7. Use Unique Passwords
Whether locking your phone or preventing unwanted access to email and banking accounts, a unique password goes a long way. Though experts believe that the best password is still no match for two-factor authentication, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have one that is unique and made up of multiple characters and numbers.
8. Use Fingerprint Verification
If you want to protect a device (and all of the data stored or accessed from that device), consider utilizing fingerprint verification, as offered on many of today’s tablets and smartphones. In conjunction with passwords, fingerprint ID systems like Apple’s Touch ID can make it exceedingly difficult for identity thieves to access sensitive information.
9. Use Sites with HTTPS Domains
This recommendation can be considered something of a complementary step to our first tip: only buy and use from trusted sources! The HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) domain is exclusively reserved for sites that are secure. If you see a site with an HTTPS security in place, the odds are very good that it can be trusted.
10. Don’t Store Sensitive Information
Are you afraid that people may access sensitive data over public Wi-Fi networks? Do you worry what information might be available should your phone or tablet become lost or stolen? Minimize your risk of identity theft by not storing private or sensitive information in the cloud or on your device. Clear your cache and customize your browser settings so that credit card and other sensitive data is not stored in its memory.