By Jennifer Burns
If you’re like me, you love shopping with your slippers on, a cup of black coffee, and shiny credit card in hand (and with the great online discounts, who can blame us?) However, as a cautious online shopper, there are a few special things I look for before hitting “Buy”:
Check your wireless. Are you on a secure wireless network? If you aren’t, you should wait to make that purchase until you are. Hackers can easily grab credit card and other personal information from unsecure wireless networks. My advice is to only do credit card transactions from wireless networks that are password protected . Or you can go old school and hook up to Mr. Ethernet (but not Mr. Dial-up, I hope).
Manually enter the URL of the well-known site you are looking to purchase from. This will ensure you are on ToysRus.com (and not Toysplus.com). Cybercriminals are pretty talented when it comes to mirroring websites to look the same as the official site.
SSL security certificates. SSL stands for “secure socket layer.” These certificates encrypt your confidential data. SSL certificates are used on sites that involve credit card transactions, log ins, sign ups, etc. These certificates usually appear in a box shape and can be on the page where your credit card information is entered. The box will say something like “SSL certified.”
Check the SSL certificate’s validity. If you click on the SSL icon, (and allow a pop-up here) it should link you to a web page with the most recent verified test date. The test date should always be today’s date.
Look for the “s” after http. Any information that is shared with an address that is secure will have an “s” after http (and is using SSL before transmitting your information).
Look for that snazzy padlock icon. Another feature of SSL, this is normally found in the lower right-hand corner of the browser window. The lock should be closed. Don’t depend fully on the lock icon, as there has been some recent concern for its trustworthiness.
The most important tip I have for you, well, besides using great security software, is to use good judgment. If the website looks shady, and doesn’t match the above requirements, do your shopping elsewhere. And if the site appears normal, but you’re still in doubt, you can always hop in the car and meet that cute purse, panda hat, or “tight” auto part in person. (People still say tight, right?) Well, anyhow, if it’s an auto part, you probably want to make sure it’s on tight regardless.