Security and Safety

10 Steps to Online Shopping Safely

By Jennifer Chappell Smith 11.1.16

Where do you go to do your holiday shopping, Texans? Some delight in the festive deals and decorations at their local mall. Others navigate holiday traffic to get to and from various boutiques, toy stores, and hardware stores. But the No. 1 shopping destination? The internet.

That’s according to last year’s Deloitte Holiday Survey, with 47 percent of respondents saying the internet is where they’ll likely shop for holiday gifts. (Value/discount stores came in a close second, at 45 percent, while traditional department stores came in third, with 30 percent.)

Sadly, cyber criminals morph into virtual Grinches this time of year — don’t let them steal your holiday joy. Though your homeowners insurance policy might offer limited coverage for losses associated with identity theft if your personal information gets compromised during an online shopping session, stay vigilant so you never have to make a claim.

The Better Business Bureau, National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), and other experts have consistent advice about how to protect yourself in an age where “window shopping” means opening new windows on your internet browser rather than strolling along Main Street.

1. Use Authenticated Websites

Make sure the site you’re visiting is the official site of the online store — and not a fake. Check to see if the BBB seal is authentic — clicking the BBB icon should link you to the website’s BBB Business Review.

2. Confirm a Site’s Security Setting

The BBB suggests to keeping your eyes peeled for two points of authentication —  https:// in the web address (or URL) and a picture of a small closed lock in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

3. Create Strong Passwords

Some suggest creating a sentence, so that “The stars at night, are big and bright” becomes the password combination “TSANABAB.” Others suggest a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numerals, and special characters. Some sites rate the strength of your password as you create it; heed that advice.

4. Use Different Passwords

For online shopping aficionados, managing and remembering a litany of unique password combinations for their online banking site, iTunes account, and even Pokémon GO account can be a tough task. Remember: It may seem like a hassle, but it’s worth it to preserve your finances and identity.

5. Keep a “Clean Machine”

That’s the NCSA’s term for any web-connected device that runs the latest version software and apps. Be sure to check for updates on the programs you run and install those updates when they pop up on your home screen.

6. Build a Fortress

Install the trifecta of protection on your home computer: a firewall, anti-virus protection, and anti-spyware software.

7. Watch Wi-Fi Hot Spots

It’s tempting to click on the free Wi-Fi link when you’re killing time at a coffee shop or airport, but that’s a prime way for criminals to intercept your personal information.

8. Use Credit Cards

Unlike debit cards, many reputable credit card companies offer protection for fraud related to online purchases.

9. Avoid Getting Hooked by a Phishing Scam

Legitimate companies won’t send you an email asking for sensitive information or credit card account numbers. Don’t fall for suspicious links. Call to confirm any unusual requests or to ask about any “We can’t complete your order”-type emails.

10. Find Out What’s Covered

Check with your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent to understand what protection your homeowners policy provides for identity theft.

With these precautions, enjoy virtual browsing and click to complete your shopping list in no time. And just think of all the time, money, and gas you’ll save!

For even more protection of your personal information, visit the Texas Farm Bureau member benefits page to sign up for VerifID credit monitoring services.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation. © 2016 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance