As we continue to navigate the pandemic, many of us will be shopping Black Friday sales online. And we won’t be alone.

Stay at home orders have already had their impact on the retail landscape. According to a recent StatCan COVID-19 study, retail e-commerce sales nearly doubled from February to July 2020.

However, retailers aren’t the only ones hoping to cash in on the influx of online shoppers. Fraudsters are constantly adapting their tactics online in hopes of tricking shoppers out of their hard earned money or collecting their personal and financial information.

With that in mind and as we approach the holiday gift-giving season, here are some tips to ensure a safe and smooth online shopping experience.

1. Look for the lock.

Always use a secure internet connection when making a purchase. Reputable websites use technologies such as SSL (Secure Socket Layer) that encrypt data during transmission. You will see a little lock icon on your browser (and usually “https” at the front of your address bar) to confirm it’s a secure connection.

2. Pay securely.

On a related note, only shop on sites that take secure payment methods, such as credit cards and PayPal, which is electronically linked to your credit card or bank account. Never send cash or a cheque. When shopping at an unfamiliar merchant site, look for some sort of security seal of approval, such as DigiCert, Better Business Bureau or VeriSign.

3. Update your software.

Whether you shop on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop, always keep the operating system up to date to avoid cybercriminals exploiting a weakness. Also use good anti-malware (“malicious software”) that includes anti-virus and a firewall.

4. Do your homework.

When on auction sites like eBay, check the seller’s reputation and read comments before buying a product to see what the experience was like for past customers.

Also, don’t forget about the No. 1 tip about shopping: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. You won’t find an iPhone 12 for $300.

5. Use good passwords.

A good password is at least eight characters long and includes letters, num-
bers and symbols. Or use a passphrase, which is a long string of words together, and include a number and symbol, too. For example, the sentence “My dog Emma has a birthday April 16!” could be used to create a passphrase like “MdEhabA16!

A version of this article appeared in the March 2018 issue with the headline, “Smart Money,” p. 50.


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