Shopping online on Cyber Monday avoids many of the problems with Black Friday crowds, but it has its own downside: identity theft.
Sure you don't have to jostle with the hordes of sale-crazed shoppers or look sadly at picked-over merchandise, but buying things online comes with a few risks. You'll be sending financial information over the Internet, which means you need to be careful that it isn't compromised.
It's good to have anti-virus protection and keep an eye out for fraudulent charges on your bank accounts, but there are some other specific steps you can take while shopping this holiday season. Here are three suggestions for staying safe:
Use strong and unique passwords. Many websites ask you to create an account when you shop online and then log in when you shop. Vary your passwords and make sure each one is strong. That means using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, and using both uppercase and lowercase characters. Write your passwords down on paper if you have to, but reusing passwords is an invitation for identity theft.
Only use secure Wi-Fi networks. Free Wi-Fi at the coffee shop or at the public library are great, but they aren't secure. Those kinds of Internet connections are more likely to have people trying to hack into your computer and steal your information. If you're going to enter your credit card number, only do it on a password protected Wi-Fi network that you trust. Better yet, do it on your home wireless network so you know exactly who's on it.
Buy from reputable online merchants. There are scammers out there looking to take advantage of Cyber Monday shoppers who use search engines to find deals. Pick the stores you want to buy from and use their website's "search" function to find the items you want. Don't give your credit card information to stores you don't know and don't trust. Check that the page where you enter your financial information is secured with an "https" web address.
Despite your best efforts, it's possible your computer or online accounts may still get hacked. If that happens to you, know that there are lawyers ready to help you get your finances back on track.