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Top tips to stay safe while shopping online this Christmas

The festive season is now upon us, and many will be busy trying to find the right gifts for friends and family. This, of course, will include a fair amount of online shopping. Although online Christmas shopping is now common practice, it’s worth taking a few minutes just to remind ourselves of some of the potential risks and pitfalls to ensure we all stay safe.

Here are our top tips to stay safe while shopping online this Christmas:

  1. Use websites you’re familiar with.

At this time of year, you’re certainly going to be bombarded with advertisements for different websites where you can do your shopping. Most of these sites will be legitimate but now is probably not the best time to be experimenting as the risk of landing on a fake site designed simply to collect your personal data is also much higher. Instead, stick to using sites that you are familiar with and trust.

  • Remember to look out for https.

Website addresses can start either with http or https. The latter is much more secure and sites whose address starts with https are much better able to protect your data as they will encrypted. In fact, on many browsers you will notice the words ‘Not Secure’ before the website address for sites that start with http. Whether you’re using a website you are familiar with or trying somewhere new, just double check to make sure it’s an https site before making a purchase.

  • Watch out for special offers.

We all love a bargain, but some bargains really are too good to be true. Hackers know that Christmas can be a financially challenging time for many and do their best to exploit this.  Be particularly wary of offers that have a pressing time window in which you can claim an offer or discount and scan links before you click on them. The more pressure there is to ‘act now’, the more likely it is to be a scam. The best approach is to create a realistic budget for your festive shopping before you start and stick to it. This will help you avoid the temptation of succumbing to a scam.

  • Use a secure network.

The website you’re doing your shopping on might be legitimate and secure but is the network you’re browsing on also secure? For example, never do your online shopping when using public Wi-Fi as hackers can access these systems and place themselves between you and the website you’re using. This, clearly, gives them a great opportunity to acquire all the data that you send to the website.

  • Password1234

If you’re setting up an account with an online retailer, make sure your password is a bit harder to crack than the one above. Hackers have systems that will test thousands of possible passwords every second in an attempt to gain access to your data.  Don’t use your name or the names of loved ones or pets or any personal information that might be available elsewhere online, particularly on your social media pages. Instead, use unique passwords for different accounts which have a good mix of numbers, letters and characters. There are now plenty of tools available to help you manage multiple passwords. When possible, also use two factor authentication.

  • Approach private sellers with caution

There are plenty of private sellers online and buying for them can be a great option as you avoid shipping fees and can often benefit from better prices. Using private sellers can also be a great way to make your Christmas shopping more sustainable by buying recycled or upcycled items. Do, however, apply sensible precautions especially when it comes to setting up meetings with private sellers and organising payments to make sure you get what you paid for without any risks to your personal safety.

Christmas is a time to have fun and celebrate. Shopping should be part of that fun, but hackers are out there trying to ruin the festive season for us. With a few precautions you can greatly reduce any risks and enjoy this special time of year with loved ones.

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