Safe holiday shopping tips: How to keep your data secure online


Shopping online is very convenient but also very risky. Use these tips to keep your data secure online, no matter where you shop.

With COVID still raging in the United States, shoppers are understandably getting more of their shopping done online this year compared to pre-COVID holiday seasons. Unfortunately, more online shopping means more exposure to hackers and the risk of identity theft.

“Hackers love the holidays! It’s when people buy new devices and let their guard down,” said Harry Maugans, privacy advocate

Here are a few tips to stay away from scams, fraud and possible hacks during any travel as well as on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and during the rest of the shopping season.

The top safe holiday shopping tips

#1: Only join reputable loyalty programs

Although companies have been known to not pay too much attention to their rewards programs’ security, recent large-scale data breaches have prompted all companies with similar programs to reconsider.

When you subscribe to such programs, you should consider how safe they are. There is often information about the program’s security features that customers can read to assess whether they should or should not subscribe to this program. Customers can also petition such companies to improve their security if they feel it is inadequate.

Since the start of the pandemic lockdown, Akami Technologies noted an increase in loyalty program accounts being sold on the dark web. Hackers love loyalty points! To avoid this fate, you should also protect yourself against rewards program data breaches.

#2: Delete your stale accounts

All of those rewards sites, subscriptions and services that required your email, personal information and consent to sign up for over the years are like cyber time bombs waiting to be exploited by a data breach. Make sure you are cleaning up your data by filing data deletion requests to services you no longer use and cleaning up your virtual footprint.

The key is to delete accounts that you aren’t using and to set your privacy preferences so you protect yourself as much as possible before the next breach. That also includes deleting any accounts and unsubscribing from newsletters that you joined only to get a discount from that company. Those stale accounts and zombie newsletters can leave your personal info vulnerable to hackers!

Shameless plug: Privacy Bee can help you protect your online privacy!

#3: Use a password manager

One of the biggest risks with loyalty programs is that they make easy targets for hackers because most consumers don’t think of these rewards programs as being high risk. So consumers are less likely to create strong passwords or to forget to change the passwords on those accounts.

Hackers exploit lists of usernames and passwords from other data breaches and try those on rewards programs where they are more likely than not to find those old, stale passwords.

Most individuals either keep one password for all their accounts or save all their information on a simple document on their laptops or phones. Both practices are dangerous and can easily lead to data breaches. Bad habit!

The best way to secure those accounts is by using one of the best password management apps. These keep you organized and will even generate secure passwords for you. The best apps work equally well on desktop and mobile so you can easily adapt your behavior to include more secure password management.

#4: Check to see if your data has been stolen

To find out whether your personal data has been hacked and available on lists of breached passwords or on the dark web, check the Privacy Bee data breach tracker.

If your personal information has been stolen in one of the most common types of data breaches, follow our guide on what to do after a data breach. The first step should always be to secure all accounts again by changing passwords and signing out of other devices. 

#5: Shop from secure devices

If you are paying with your credit card number while online shopping, ensure you are connected to a secure internet connection as well as on a website that is secure. You can check to ensure the website is legitimate and secure by noting if the URL begins with HTTPS and has a lock symbol to the left of the address on most browsers instead of simply HTTP.

Hackers can easily steal your information over an insecure internet connection, typically in public places where this is free wifi. Ensure that your connection to the internet is over a secure network while finishing your online shopping.

#6: Monitor credit reports/bank statements 

The holiday shopping season always brings a massive wave of fraud. Hackers hope that you’re not paying attention during the busy holidays. They use your distraction to hack accounts, using your social security number to open unauthorized credit cards and loans in your name. Before you realize it, your credit is shot!

The best way to catch a data breach is by continually monitoring credit reports and bank statements to nip and future issues in the bud. Individuals who have signed up for loyalty and reward programs are especially susceptible to credit card fraud and loyalty program data breaches.

If you notice something unusual, learn how to contact the credit bureaus to put a freeze on your accounts!

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We hop these safe holiday shopping tips help make this a fun-yet-secure holiday season! After all, shiny new tech toys are much more fun when they don’t steal your data or violate your privacy! 😺

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