As cases of COVID-19 increase, more and more of us are doing our holiday (and other) shopping online.

And while that is certainly safer and more convenient, it does have its drawbacks. The most important one? The safety of your sensitive financial and personal information.

Here’s a few tips to stay safe online from the all of us at RoseLake Estates:

  • Verify that you are shopping where you think you are. It’s very easy for scammers change the name of a familiar retailer name by just one or two letters – and rack up lots of debt using your credit card information.
  • Never shop using unprotected Wi-Fi in public places. Public Wi-Fi hotspots at coffee shops, airports, fast food restaurants, shopping center food courts, and other public places may allow thieves to view your transactions.
  • Use passwords that are strong, long and unique. Avoid using a specific word, especially one that’s easy to figure out, such as your pet’s name. Use a different password for each account.
  • Be hyper cautious of making purchases after clicking on a link from a pop-up ad. This is “click bait,” and it is very risky to trust providing these ‘retailers’ with your credit card info. Many are from China and India – and they may or may not actually provide the service or products they are advertising.
  • Install or update your computer security software. Make sure all firewalls are active and in place.
  • How do you know the site you are considering purchasing from is secure? Look at the URL designation. Sites using the “s” designation in “https” at the start of the URL will be secure sites. Look for the “lock” icon in the browser’s URL bar as well.
  • Don’t ever open so-called ‘phishing emails’ that suggest a password is expiring or an account update is needed. The link you click may take you to a fake website that will steal usernames and passwords or can track your keystrokes.
  • Even though it may be a pain, use multi-factor authentication, such as a security code, usually sent as a text to a mobile phone, in addition to usernames and passwords.
  • When it’s time to get a new computer, phone or tablet, be careful of how you dispose of your old one. Make sure to wipe the hard drive of all information before trashing.

It only takes a few extra steps to protect your information from predators online. Besides spending untold hours on the phone with creditors if your personal information is compromised, it often takes a full year or more or get back your good name and re-establish credit. Better to be proactive!

Be smart and be safe! Here’s to a safe and low-key holiday season this year.