Black Friday is right around the corner, and a lot of shoppers will be turning to the internet for deals. If you’re planning on shopping online in the coming weeks, there are a few easy steps you can take to protect your money and personal information.
Look before you click links
When searching for deals, you’ll find yourself clicking on a lot of links. Remember to pause for a moment when clicking links in search results to make sure the link is actually taking you where you think you’re going.
If you hover over a link in a web browser, you’ll see a preview of the address the link will take you to at the bottom of the screen. Keep an eye on this, especially in search results where you could be clicking on ads designed to look like legitimate links. Sometimes these can take you to malicious websites or scams, which would be evident if the URL at the bottom of the screen is strange or suspicious.
Shop on secure sites
It’s also important to make sure the sites you’re shopping on are secure. If you’re on a secure site, your connection is encrypted and anyone snooping on your traffic won’t be able to steal any passwords or credit card numbers you enter. In Chrome and other browsers, you’ll see a green lock icon indicating you’re visiting a secure site. This green lock will only appear if the site you’re on is using the https:// protocol, which is also visible in the address bar.
If you’re ready to checkout and notice you’re on a page that’s not secure—if the lock icon is red or if you see the plain http:// protocol (without the s) in the address bar—don’t enter any personal or financial information. Legitimate retailers will always use https:// to secure their websites.
Use an alternate payment method
If you’re hesitant to directly give a retailer your credit card information, you can use a service like PayPal. Basically, PayPal acts as a middle-man between you and the retailer—you provide the retailer with your PayPal account and PayPal handles the payment processing. In theory, this gives you an extra layer of protection in the event you experience a problem with a retailer. Many major online stores support checking out using a PayPal account, and there are other options as well, like Amazon Payments.