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Spending more time shopping online than you ever have before? In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, you aren’t alone. More people are shopping online than they have in the past — and that’s not expected to change.
Shopping online does come with its own special risks, though. Here are a few tips for how you can protect your information and be a savvy online shopper in 2021.
1. Only Shop at Trusted Companies and Websites
Every savvy shopper loves knowing they have purchased their items at a great price, but there is some truth to the adage “you get what you pay for.” If the best price is offered by a company you aren’t familiar with or has questionable reviews, consider paying a little bit more to make your purchase from a reputable company.
One more thing to keep in mind as you eye potential deals — there’s also truth in another popular saying you’ve probably heard before. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” If something about an advertised item or company website seems off, trust your instinct and look for another source to place your order.
2. Place Orders from Trusted Networks
Making purchases on-the-go can be convenient, but often means using public Wi-Fi or networks that can have questionable security measures in place. Without proper security, logging into accounts can give hackers access to your personal information, including your home address and banking information.
Not only do you need to worry about your existing bank or credit account, but you also need to be concerned with someone collecting enough of your data to commit identity theft. You could be looking at more than just a financial loss, but the potential for a destroyed credit score that could follow you for years. Using your own password-protected network and well-trusted, reputable payment platforms are the best way to make online purchases.
3. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Passwords
If you aren’t already using a unique password for every account, it’s time to start. While it may be inconvenient to keep track of them all, it will help make sure that a breach in one system doesn’t lead to someone easily hacking into your accounts on other systems. If you need help keeping track of your passwords, you may want to consider a password manager.
When creating passwords, remember to stay away from important names and dates and to always use a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Keep your passwords to yourself and don’t store them in easily accessible locations. For additional security, always opt into two-factor authentication when it’s provided as an option. Again, it may be a little inconvenient, but it’s a simple and great step to limiting unauthorized access to your accounts.
4. Use a VPN
It’s also worth considering using a VPN to improve security. A Virtual Private Network can be added to individual devices — great when you’re away from your home network — and on your network itself. A VPN creates a secure internet connection and encrypts data that moves through the network or device, making it harder for prying eyes to get your information.
In addition to the secure connection, a VPN can mask your location, hide your online shopping patterns, and help you navigate firewalls.
Implementing these simple tips in your shopping routines can leave you better protected in 2021 — without giving up the convenience of online shopping.