USE Credit Union Advises Shoppers to Stay Safe Online This Holiday Season

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It’s important to keep that same level of risk awareness while online shopping, too, to protect your personal information.

For some of us, holiday shopping provides almost as much thrill as enjoying wonderful moments with loved ones. However, looking for the just the right gift may require a bit of sleuthing both in-store and online.

“This year, consumers have increased their online shopping to minimize the in-person risk of exposure to COVID-19,” said Paris Chevalier, Chief Experience Officer of USE Credit Union. “It’s important to keep that same level of risk awareness while online shopping, too, to protect your personal information.”

Before you begin loading your online carts and checking off your gift list, it’s important to keep in mind these smart online shopping practices:

  • Avoid fake websites advertising specials or deals

It’s important to remain mindful of the websites you’re shopping on. Cybercriminals may create fraudulent websites, posing as well-known online retailers, in an attempt to obtain your username and password. Your login information may be used to access other shopping sites that store your credit card or other personal data.

To check if a website is safe, verify that the URL in the address bar of your browser stars with ‘https’, not ‘http’ – this shows that you are accessing a secure website. This is best used in conjunction with an Internet security solution to further protect your online transactions.

  • Don’t respond to suspicious automated calls

If you’ve received a call from well-known, large retailers suggesting there’s been fraudulent activity, it’s most likely a scam trying to access your personal information. These “spoof” phone calls often falsify information that’s transmitted to your caller ID system, leading you to believe that it’s an important contact. Well-known, larger retailers will never request personal information or payment outside of the website.

However, this may be a warning that there is an issue with the security of your account. It’s recommended that you call the retailer or company directly only using contact information provided on the verified website to discuss the fraudulent communication you received.

  • Skip opening order confirmation emails for items you didn’t purchase

This is commonly referred to as ‘phishing’ and it’s one of the most common scams. Even if you recognize the business, the domain name of the email might not match the correct name of the business. If you spot a slight misspelling, added character or other variation in the address, avoid opening the email if you can. Unsolicited email attachments are another warning sign that the email you received is a scam.

Some businesses may have a scam department that allow you to report these emails. Check with the business customer service department to confirm the appropriate method to report the email you received.

Protecting your online presence is vital this holiday season. Your financial institution can help you to not only budget for your holiday shopping, but maintain your financial safety through safe, online banking and monitoring your accounts for fraudulent charges. Talk to your financial institution for further information.

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