November 27, 2017

Online Shopping Tips to Stay Safe This Holiday

Online Shopping Tips to Stay Safe This Holiday



It’s Cyber Monday! In preparation for another holiday season, here are some tips to stay safe while you shop online this year:

  • If you are shopping on your phone or computer and using an unknown Wi-Fi connection, save the purchases for later. Don’t enter any personal information such as name, address, or credit card number until you are on a secure and known connection.
  • Before you do anything on a website, check the address bar of your internet browser. Look for the word “Secure” and a lock icon. Another way of making sure the website is secure is by checking for the “s” in “HTTPS”. This means they have “secure sockets layer” encryption. The lock icon will appear however different browsers might show it in different locations so it’s good to check for the “s” if you don’t see the lock. Example:

  • Hackers will attempt to trick you in any way, including creating websites that look exactly like a legitimate site and have a similar URL. Check the section between the first slashes (double slash) and the second slash (single slash). Example using ””:
    • (this is the same as
    • (not the same)
    • (not the same)
  • If you’re buying something on a new website and they want you to sign up for an account, use a new password. Never use the same passwords for shopping sites as you do for anything else, such as email, bank logins, etc. (It’s a good idea to use a different password for every site you go to but this is especially important.) Even if the company you’re purchasing from is legitimate, you don’t know who might have access to their database now or in the future.
  • Never give more information than necessary. Some companies will collect your birthday in order to send birthday month deals; however, you want to be careful with who you share this information with. No shopping site should ever ask for your social security number unless you’re applying for a line of credit in order to make the purchase.
  • Be wary of friends and family members asking for money over Facebook, email, or other electronic means, especially if they normally communicate with you in other ways. Hackers can gain access to these types of accounts and then try to convince the people in their friends list to send them money for an emergency.
  • Even if you don’t normally check your credit card statements, it’s a good idea to be a little more vigilant during the holidays. Check for fraudulent charges on your statements and alert your bank or credit card company immediately.
  • Lastly, phishing scammers will also be out in full force. They know people are doing more shopping this time of year and may try to send you an email that looks like it’s from a vendor you recently made a purchase from. Some general tips for avoiding phishing scams are:
    • Don’t open unexpected attachments. It may seem obvious not to download an .exe file but even PDFs, Word documents, and Excel spreadsheets can be infected.
    • Email names can be misleading. Check the actual email address and not the displayed name, as these can be completely different.
    • Before clicking on links, hover over them with your mouse to see what their URL is (where they lead to). Even if a link pretends to display one URL, it could lead to something else.

Loki Labs is a member of The Cyber Security Association of Maryland (CAMI). They have additional tips at


-Nov 27, 2017