Friday, 6 September 2019

With online shopping on the rise, it's clear that many of us prefer purchasing goods and services in our own way, on our own time.

The benefits of shopping online, however, also come with some drawbacks, namely the potential for fraud and the inadvertent disclosure of your personal financial information. With that in mind, here are five ways you can be safe(r) when shopping online.

1. Lock that site up

Make sure the site you're shopping is secure with secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption installed. SSL makes sure that all the information passed between a server and the site is private - in other words a secure site ensures that what you share (e.g., your credit card information) is communicated in a safe and secure way with the end user (i.e., the online store). To check if the site you're browsing is secured with SSL, look for the padlock in the address bar or make sure that the URL includes the “s" after “http."

2. Just say no to free Wi-Fi

Publicly available Wi-Fi can be tricky. Yes, it's nice because it's open and it's free. But then again, it's open, which might mean it's not secured and the information you send using the network can be intercepted by fraudsters or hackers or it could be used to distribute malware or viruses. As this article from PC Mag lays out, there are several ways to safely use public Wi-Fi so you can feel free to shop online from virtually anywhere.

3. Research the website

I am constantly being targeted by social media sites for various items, chief among them, handbags. I recently bought one by way of an advertisement that was served up just for me, but since I was not familiar with the site, prior to purchasing it, I searched for ratings and reviews of the vendor. What I found made me comfortable enough to buy the bag. Moral of the story? I saw something I liked on a site I wasn't familiar with, I researched it independently to make sure it was legit and only then did I pass my credit card information along. Researching before you buy will help save you headaches, frustration and heartache over the cute bag you thought you were buying that turned out to be a way to line fraudsters' pockets.

4. Use gift cards instead of credit cards

When you use a gift card on a well known site, you are not passing the information for your personal financial account, whether it's a credit card or debit card, to the online store. Instead, you're linking the card information to an account containing a limited amount of money - whatever is loaded on the gift card - from which you'll make a purchase. This can be a more secure way of shopping online, since your account information is never provided. Upturn1, a free online tool that simplifies and streamlines the process of disputing inaccuracies on credit reports, also has information about “virtual credit cards" or a card that is generated for temporary use while making online purchases, and it enables you to do so without exposing any of your real credit card information. Click here to check out Upturn and read more about virtual credit cards. Finally, you may also want to consider a prepaid card. With prepaid cards, you can load a set amount of funds and use as you would a credit or debit card. Read more about BBVA ClearSpend Visa® here.

5. Check your accounts regularly

Your bank and/or credit card company will be helpful in monitoring your accounts for fraud, but their systems aren't a match for your own vigilance when it comes to your finances. Check each of your accounts regularly to understand the transactions coming in and out, particularly if you have more than one account holder. Use the functionality the accounts offer to further protect and monitor, including text alerts. When you take control of your finances in this way, you mitigate the potential risks that come along with conducting activities online, like shopping.

Finally, if you want to make sure the reporting of your accounts to the credit bureaus is accurate and get a free look at your credit report, check out Upturn. A free online tool that simplifies and streamlines the process of disputing inaccuracies on credit reports, Upturn enables people to quickly identify errors in their credit report and easily dispute them.

1 Upturn is a registered trademark of Upturn Financial, Inc. and is a member of the BBVA Group.

The content provided is for informational purposes only. Neither BBVA USA, nor any of its affiliates, is providing legal, tax, or investment advice. You should consult your legal, tax, or financial advisor about your personal situation. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BBVA USA or any of its affiliates.

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