The internet can be a terrific spot to snag deals, but it's vital to be vigilant about safe online shopping. Hackers who gain access to your personal information — particularly credit card numbers — can do an untold amount of damage that can be very difficult to undo.
Thankfully, you can take several simple yet effective steps to protect yourself when you shop. Consider our tactics so you can play it safe while you take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales or buy Christmas gifts for family and friends.
1. Look for the Lock
A lock icon on the left-hand side of any URL indicates the website is safe. Websites without this lock symbol may be run by scammers who are out to steal your information or might have been launched by newbie sellers who don't know much about online security. Regardless, it's best to steer clear. Unsecured websites, and the personal information they gather, can be vulnerable to hacking.
2. Stick to Trusted Retailers
Safe online shopping is more important than getting a fantastic deal. That is why you should stick to brands you trust, whether they are national, regional or local. A number of familiar stores have online shopping websites where you can browse for good deals or exclusive online-only merchandise.
Beware of sites that seem like they were designed by amateurs, and watch out for deals that appear too good to be true. It's also a good idea to avoid online auction sites because they account for more than half of all internet fraud incidents.
3. Stay on Top of Your Finances
Don't wait for your credit card bills to come in at the end of the month to see the details of your transactions. You can check your statements at any time via the internet, and it's a good idea to do so regularly. Look not only for fraudulent charges but also honest mistakes made by your bank or a legitimate seller. If you notice something is wrong, call the seller or your bank to have the matter rectified.
If you have fallen victim to fraud or some type of scam, contact local law enforcement immediately. Don't wait too long to deal with the problem, as you may have to pay charges if you don't act within 30 days.
Coosa Valley Credit Union offers a plethora of helpful services for people dealing with the aftermath of fraud related to online shopping. Coosa Valley also provides checking and savings accounts, e-services, debit cards and a free app to help you manage your finances on the go. If you have questions or need financial advice on a number of important topics, contact Coosa Valley Credit Union today.