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7 Tips for Staying Safe Online During the Holiday Season

Originally published:|Last updated:|Dashlane

Every year the holidays bring an online shopping rush, and while you’re tracking and tackling all those flash discounts and “today only” sales, fraudsters are equally busy taking advantage of the seasonal gift-buying craze. 

Luckily, there are ways to shop online that mitigate a lot of the risks associated with sharing and storing your sensitive info on retail sites. CNBC just shared their recommendations for protecting yourself online during Black Friday and Cyber Monday—including using a password manager like Dashlane.

So in the spirit of giving (tis the season), we’re adding our own 7 tips for staying safe online while you shop for your loved ones:

  • Beware of shopping-related phishing schemes
  • Avoid suspicious or unfamiliar retailers
  • Don’t shop online using free WiFi unless you’re using a VPN
  • Don’t save sensitive info on sites or in your browser
  • Secure accounts with strong passwords
  • Keep an eye on your credit
  • Ship to a secure location

1. Beware of shopping-related phishing schemes

Phishing is an incredibly effective tactic used by cybercriminals that involves sending emails designed to look like they’re from someone else—like a brand you love. Generally speaking, these emails will encourage you to click on a malicious link by enticing you with a deal or exclusive price. If you click on the link, you’re redirected to a spoofed landing page of the brand they’re impersonating. Typically, the cybercriminal will try to collect login credentials or payment information like your credit card number.

What to do: If something seems off, check the “from” email address to ensure it’s legitimate, and we also recommend hovering your mouse over the URL before you click to confirm that it leads to a legitimate site and not a fake. You can find more details on how to spot a phishing scam here.

2. Avoid suspicious or unfamiliar retailers

Speaking of illegitimate sites, you should be careful submitting your login or payment information on any site that feels scammy or clicking on deals that seem too good to be true. Oftentimes during holiday season, scammers set up sites designed to attract bargain hunters hoping to score a crazy deal on the latest Pixel or iPad.

What to do: If you’re not familiar with the website or company you’re buying from, don’t take the risk. That seemingly good deal could cost you thousands of dollars spent on restoring your stolen identity.

3. Don’t shop online using free WiFi unless you’re using a VPN

It’s really tempting to shop on-the-go during holiday season, especially if you’re traveling to see family or friends. But if you’re connected to free WiFi like in airports, planes, trains, cafes, or hotels, the first thing you should do when you get online is connect to a VPN. If you’re using at-home WiFi, or simply using your cellular data, you don’t need to worry about using a VPN.

What to do: Use a VPN, which encrypts all the traffic coming in and out of your device, so no one can snoop on your internet activity and steal the information you input online, including logins and payment information.

4. Don’t save sensitive info on sites or in your browser

This is a general safety tip that is even more relevant this time of year. It’s common to save personal and payment information on shopping websites so you don’t need to fill it in the next time you buy something. However, these sites aren’t designed to provide the necessary security for your data—they’re designed for shopping. That’s why we routinely hear about hacks and breaches containing personal information from retailers.

What to do: You can take advantage of the convenience of autofilling your information on different sites without sacrificing your security by using a password manager like Dashlane.

5. Secure accounts with strong passwords

Password reuse is an epidemic. Repeating the same password across your accounts is a lot like using the same key for your house, your car, your office, your mailbox, and even the locker at your gym. If someone gets a hold of any one of those keys, they now have access to everything you want to keep safe. During the holiday season, you’ll likely be creating new accounts to simplify checkouts, tracking, and returns. When you do, use random, strong passwords, so in the event of a site breach you won’t be handing a cybercriminal the key to your other accounts.

What to do: Use a password manager like Dashlane. Dashlane generates strong passwords for you, helping you eliminate password reuse. Plus, it securely stores these complicated passwords and logs you in instantly so you never have to worry about forgetting another password.

6. Keep an eye on your credit
Sometimes you may not even be aware that your personal information is compromised until it’s too late, and this time of year fraud is even more prevalent. If your information or identity is stolen, one of the first signs of improper use is unusual changes to your credit.

What to do: There are affordable ways to get alerted about credit changes, so you can take action fast in a worst-case scenario.

7. Ship to a secure location

This may seem extreme, but package theft has become more prevalent in recent years with the rise of online shopping and the barrage of home deliveries.

What to do: If no one’s home during the day, consider shipping to your office or somewhere else that will keep your package off sidewalks or front doorsteps.

If you can follow the steps laid out above, you’ll be way ahead of the curve in terms of ensuring your accounts stay safe and your holiday is worry-free—a time for joy, family, and lots of gifts.

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