6 Tips for Securing Your Digital Profile for the Holidays

December 15, 2016

It’s that time of the year again, folks! Like me, you’re all probably excited and looking forward to all the good deals that can be had during the holidays.  Yes, scratch that itch the only way you know how: with a credit card!

But before you jump online to swipe with careless abandon, do remember that the holidays are also a time when cyber-criminals are most active, ready to steal your data and make YOU pay for their holiday shopping!

Take a minute or two to read these six tips that will help make your online holiday shopping safe and secure:

Tip #1 – Buy from reputable establishments

It pays to go to the big stores like Lazada or Amazon, especially for big-ticket items like appliances. These stores have invested a lot in making their online marketplaces secure. Before you buy something from an new online store, take the time to check the store’s reputation from people you know in person or from reviews on social media sites.

Also, look for the lock symbol next to your browser’s URL bar that indicates that the site is using SSL encryption to protect your credit card and personal information. SSL protected websites have an HTTPS:// prefix.

Secure HTTP Protocol

And never ever give your credit card info via email or over the phone.

Tip #2 – Use a debit card

A debit card is like a wallet that you fill with money before you use it.  Most banks offer debit cards that are accepted at online stores as if they’re credit cards themselves (think of credit cards as “prepaid” credit cards).  This way, even if your card details are stolen, the thieves only get the amount that’s on the debit card.  Keep the amount small and plan your purchases in advance so you only load money when you are about to buy something.

Tip #3 – Be miserly with your personal information

Most online stores require you to provide extensive personal information during checkout. Only fill in the required fields and don’t volunteer extra information. These sites will require you to provide an email address, which brings us to our 4th tip.

Tip #4 – Consider using Disposable Email Addresses

When registering to online stores, consider using disposable email addresses like what Google and Yahoo provide. Disposable email addresses are super easy to set up (especially Google’s), are routed to your primary inbox and provide you with a way to track which organizations your email address is shared with.  You can also create rules on your mail client to sort, filter and block these disposable email addresses.

Tip #5 – Enlist in credit card notifications

Ask your credit card provider if they provide SMS or email notifications every time your card is used in a transaction.  This can prove valuable in detecting if your credit card details have been stolen by hackers and used online.  

Be wary of transactions with small amounts that you don’t recall making; these could be test purchases made by cybercriminals to see if they can use your card online.

Tip #6 – Shop in a secure, controlled environment

Use a PC running legitimate software and one that has updated anti-malware protection for all your financial and retail transactions.  A PC is preferable to a laptop or mobile device because the risk of theft or loss is minimal.  Keep installed software to the absolute minimum and scan for malware frequently.  Even then, do not store your credit card information on the machine and do not set your browsers to remember your passwords!

Shop in a Safe Environment

Avoid using your credit card on a mobile device, especially when connected to a public wifi hotspots.  Thieves deploy fake hotspots at malls and coffee shops in order to intercept your private information.  If you have to use a public wifi, use VPN software such as PrivateInternetAccess or HotSpot Shield to encrypt your data transmission.

I hope these tips will serve to make your holiday shopping fun and safe!


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