In our digital world, we shop for a lot of things online: books, movies, music, clothing, household items, and bigger purchases like airfare and vacation rentals. Many people shop for these items on their computers, and mobile devices have made it even more convenient to browse and shop for items at home or on the go. While the ability to book travel and vacation rentals online can make your life easier, there are a few things to take into consideration in order to protect your purchases and your sensitive information. Follow these cyber-security tips to give yourself peace of mind when you shop online.
Use These Tips To Protect Yourself When Shopping Online
Use SSL-Encrypted Sites
If you think this sounds complicated, don’t worry, it’s simply a way to make sure no one can intercept or spy on your data. “SSL is used to encrypt data, authenticate the server and verify the integrity of the messages,” says Michael Fowler, President at Comodo CA, the number one largest SSL certificate provider in the world. “To put it simply, it scrambles your data when you transmit information over the internet, so it cannot be understood if it were to be intercepted by a hacker.”
The good news is you don’t have to do anything out of the ordinary to use an SSL-encrypted site. Just do a quick scan of the website you’re using and look for a padlock or key in the navigation bar on your browser. Also, if the web address says “https” instead of “http”, that means your information is being encrypted. Most credible travel and rental sites will be encrypted. If you don’t see these indicators, be wary of the website and be especially cautious when entering personal information.
Make Sure You’re Using a Reputable Website
Beyond SSL encryption, you want to make sure you research on any website you use to make a transaction. Check the reviews, and search for the site on Google to see if anyone has submitted feedback, reviews or additional information. “When considering buying something, be mindful of the seller,” says Robert Siciliano, Identity Theft Expert and CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com. “Do they have feedback from previous customers? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don't perform a financial transaction without fully understanding what you're receiving, you don’t want to be one of the vacation scam stories we read about on the internet.”
Come Up With Strong Passwords
If you didn’t know by now, it’s recommended that you set a unique password for every website you use. While this can be time consuming and hard to remember, it’s a way to protect yourself; if someone steals one of your passwords, they won’t have instant access to all of your online accounts. Luckily, hack-proof passwords don’t have to be insanely long or complicated.
“Overly complex passwords are not required, and often are only required to satisfy outdated password policies,” says Troy Dearing, Senior Ethical Hacker with Armor, a cloud security company. “The ultimate password is a long string of characters such as a phrase that you remember, but not popular movie quotes! These are generally over 18 characters, making a successful brute force attack unlikely.”
If you don’t want to worry about remembering all of your passwords, try using a password manager, which lets you designate a master password for your account and stores all of your additional passwords for you.
Use Two-Factor Verification
Two-factor verification gives you an extra layer of identity verification. When you have this setup on your accounts, it will prompt you to enter your login credentials and a code to verify your identity. “Two-factor authentication is a viable security method, designed to make the process of logging in a bit more sophisticated,” says Brady Keller, Digital Marketing Strategist for Atlantic.Net. “When enabled, you would be sent a unique pin code, usually by way of text message or email any time you try logging in from an unrecognized device. There are many ways to configure this, but the end result is more secure data.
Double Check Confirmation and Offer Emails
Most travel and vacation rental sites will send you a confirmation email when you make a purchase or reservation, but they will not ask you for your password or personal information.
“Even if you have made purchases online with a vendor, if you receive emails said to be from them out of the blue asking for account confirmation, don’t reply,” says Elizabeth Avery from Solo Trekker 4 U. “Login to your account, and see if there really is an issue for you to address. Also, watch out for email scams advertising too-good-to-be-true deals.
Use Your Credit Card for Online Purchases
Online security experts recommend using a credit card instead of a debit card for online transactions. Credit cards equal more protection and more options if information does end up stolen. “Never use a debit card for online purchases,” according to Monica Eaton-Cardone, co-fouder and Chief Operation Office of Chargebacks911.”If you’re the victim of fraud, a debit card offers scant protection -- a credit card offers more comprehensive protection.”
Read the Terms and Conditions
When you book airfare or travel, make sure you understand the website’s policies, not only for the transaction but also how they will use your data.
“Read the terms and conditions,” advises Taimoor Hussain from PureVPN. “No one likes to read it but try to do it as a extra safety measure. Reading them will give a clear picture of what the website will do with your data and how it will guard your sensitive information. Also check the information is being collected while the transaction is proceeding. Online transactions only require certain information. Only give what is needed.”
Nobody wants to read the pages of fine print at the bottom of a website, and it’s all too easy to click “agree” and move on.
When you follow these tips you can shop online with confidence, and make sure your data stays put while you travel the world. Save travels!
This article was written by Maile Proctor.