1. Do a security check
Look for the padlock icon and the letters HTTPS (note the “S") in your browser's address bar to verify the site is secure and will encrypt your payment information.
Even with well-known retailers, double check the domain name in the web address.
2. Choose trustworthy sites
Shopping online with retailers you already know and trust is usually a safe bet. Otherwise, here's how to tell if an unfamiliar site is trustworthy:
- The company's contact information is visible on the site.
- Other customers give positive reviews to see how they rate the quality of the products, the timeliness of deliveries, and customer service.
- An online search of the company doesn't reveal any red flags.
3. Use a safe “vehicle” to go shopping
Equip your computer, tablet, and smartphone with firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware protection.
4. Read the fine print
Read the fine print for hidden catches, such as a required monthly subscription or a sales price applying only to limited sizes or colors.
Beware of phishing emails disguised as messages from familiar store brands about special deals.
5. Be smart about using public WiFi and downloading apps
Limit your wireless shopping to a secure, private WiFi connection. Public WiFi can leave your passwords, personal data, and financial information vulnerable to hackers.
Be careful about downloading shopping apps on your smartphone. Scammers use copycat apps to grab your personal data.
To be sure a shopping app is legitimate, get the link directly from the retailer’s secure website.
6. Pay with a credit card
Credit cards offer key protections that debit cards, prepaid cards, and gift cards don't, including:
- Credit for undelivered or mixed-up orders
- Ability to dispute fraudulent or unapproved purchases on a credit card
- Liability limit of $50 on fraudulent charges
7. Guard your personal data
To avoid giving out unnecessary information to an online vendor, remember:
- Don't ever give an online vendor your bank account number, driver's license number or Social Security number.
- You only need to fill in the required fields (marked by *) in the checkout form.
- Most reputable shopping sites won't require you to set up an account to make a purchase.
- Hold on to your order confirmation email until your package arrives.
- Don't click on any links in an email about an order you don't recall making.
- Note the company's return policy.