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Seven tips for safer online shopping this holiday season

   

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Welcome PrivacyArmor members! Beginning in 2021, PrivacyArmor will be known as Allstate Identity Protection. In the meantime, we’ll continue to provide you with tools and education designed to help protect your identity and privacy. Stay tuned for more details. 

 

With COVID-19 cases spiking across the nation, more holiday shopping will probably happen online this year. 

Of course, there are tons of benefits to shopping from home: you can quickly find and compare options, then purchase with a few clicks or taps. What could be simpler?

But online shopping poses risks, too. Sadly, fraud rates have skyrocketed during the pandemic, and cybercriminals are taking advantage of the fact that more folks are buying online.

This year alone, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 230,000 reports of fraud related to online shopping or reviews, with losses reaching more than $153,000,000. For reference, that’s nearly double the number of complaints that were reported by this time last year.

Luckily, you can help avoid many online shopping scams by following the best practices listed below. And if you do fall victim to fraud and you’re an Allstate Identity Protection member, you won’t ever have to spend the season untangling identity theft alone. 

#1 Shop only on secure sites

Before you share personal details online, especially payment information, make sure the site is trustworthy. Look for URLs that display a trust seal and begin with “https” (the “s” stands for secure). You can also check for a locked padlock in the address bar, which signals that information you send through the site is kept private. 

#2 Avoid purchasing on public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is not always secure, meaning you can’t assume the data you share will be encrypted, or scrambled into code. 

When you’re using an open network — like the free Wi-Fi offered by your neighborhood coffee shop, for example — it may be possible for criminals on the same network to see your details. That’s why it’s best to save shopping and other sensitive transactions for home. 

It’s worth noting that it pays to be cautious with public computers, too. If you must make a purchase on a shared device, sign out of your accounts and visit the browser’s ‘Settings’ page to delete all cookies when you’re done.  

#3 Safeguard sensitive information

The fewer personal details you can provide, the better — so think twice before entering information that you don’t absolutely have to share. 

Whenever possible, avoid entering your details into gift registries and giveaways. When it’s time to pay, you can check out as a guest rather than creating an account. When you use a guest account, the retailer is less likely to store your information, which could later be leaked in a breach. 

If you’re a frequent shopper with a particular site, making an account may seem unavoidable. Just remember to create strong, unique passwords for sites that store your billing information or personal details.  

#4 Use a credit card 

Paying with credit rather than debit gives you a better chance of disputing bogus charges, as the Fair Credit Billing Act offers protections against unauthorized purchases. 

If you want to play it even safer, consider virtual credit cards, which are unique and often temporary credit card numbers that transact from your main account. Virtual credit cards protect against fraud by allowing you to make purchases without revealing your true account number. Plus, if your virtual credit card number is compromised, you're less likely to need your main credit card reissued, which can disrupt other automatic payments. If you don’t mind the extra work it takes to set this up, you can create virtual credit cards through many major banks. 

A digital wallet, such as Google Pay or Venmo, can also provide an extra layer of protection: users pay with their phone or through an app, and their billing details are encrypted in the process.

#5 Practice good privacy hygiene 

Always use two-factor authentication, consider a password manager, and keep your software up to date. If you follow these basic best practices, you’ll be harder to hack than the next guy, and cybercriminals are known to seek out low-hanging fruit. 

#6 Embrace a healthy skepticism   

Some cybercriminals attack retailers directly to capture customer data.Other scammers, known as phishers, try to lure you away from legit sites onto malicious pages that capture and steal your information. 

Phishing sites and emails may closely resemble those of the companies they’re spoofing, so be on the lookout for these tell-tale signs: 

  • Misspelled words 
  • Blurred images
  • A pushy or threatening tone urging immediate action 
  • Deals that seem too good to be true
  • Hidden or misleading hyperlinks (to see a link’s true destination, hover your mouse over the text before clicking)
#7 Use an identity protection service 

When breaches do happen, fast action is key. That’s just one good reason to use a quality identity protection service like Allstate Identity Protection. 

Here are just a few ways we can help: 

  • Our customizable fraud alerts ping you when we detect suspicious activity so you can act immediately
  • An undetected case of identity theft may eventually surface on your credit report. Visit the portal to refresh your TransUnion credit score or view your annual report 
  • Billions of personal records are stolen by hackers or accidentally exposed each year, and many of them wind up for sale on the dark web. While you’re in the portal, click the ‘Dark Web Monitoring’ tab to enter important credentials into our Dark Web Monitoring tool. From there, bots and human operatives will scan the dark web and closed hacker forums for your details, and we’ll alert you if we ever find your information for sale
  • If you suspect you might be the victim of fraud, contact our Customer Care team immediately. They’re on call around the clock — even on holidays!
   
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