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Pay it safe this holiday season

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on November 27th, 2023

Plan to shop online for Christmas gifts? You’re not alone.

In 2022, Canadian consumers planned to spend an average of about 37 percent of their holiday budget online. But shopping online increases your risk of being targeted by hackers and fraudsters. In fact, according to an Interac Fraud Prevention Index Study, 6 in 10 Canadians are more worried about fraud than ever before.

The Retail Council of Canada (RCC), an organization which advocates for retailers in Canada, offers consumers these tips to be cyber savvy:

  1. Always use a secure internet connection and try to avoid free Wi-Fi locations. Make sure the online retailer has a secure site, indicated by both a little lock icon in your browser and “https” instead of “http” in the URL string.
  2. Only shop on retailer sites that take secure payment. These include credit cards, digital wallets (for mobile) or PayPal accounts that are linked to your credit card or bank accounts.
  3. Always make sure that whatever device you are using – a smartphone, a laptop, desktop or a tablet – has an updated operating system. Even better, have anti-virus, anti-malware and a firewall installed on your device.
  4. Have good strong passwords that include a combination of letters, numbers and symbols and is at least 8 characters long. Make it a habit to change your password regularly, especially as we get into the holiday season.
  5. Print or keep the email of your order confirmation as it is proof that you purchased them item and how you paid for it.
  6. Delete any suspicious emails or texts and never open one that has attachments or links. If you receive an email or text that indicates there is an issue with your order, it could be a scam and probably best you either call customer service directly or log on to your online account.
  7. Never send personal or financial information through email or text.

MORE READING: How strong is your password?

RCC also recommends the following gift card safety tips:

  1. Get your online gift cards directly from trusted retailers which will allow you to easily receive and send the card electronically. This is especially important if you are buying a high-value gift card.
  2. Inspect gift cards when buying in-store and make sure all of its protective stickers are in place such as where the PIN is located.
  3. Keep the receipt as it can be helpful should any issues arise with the card, plus it verifies activation.
  4. Treat it like cash and keep your gift cards in a safe place.
  5. Although they do not expire, it is a good idea to use gift cards quickly so as to avoid any chance of theft or forgetting that you have it.
  6. Be aware of fraud scams that demand payment of fines or penalties with the use of a gift card.

Equifax, one of two agencies (the other being TransUnion Canada) providing credit bureau and information reports, has further advice including:

Don’t share unnecessary personal data, such as your birthday. You might be missing out on a retailer’s birthday offer, but if hackers gain access to this data, they’ll have personal information about you that could potentially be used to impersonate you online.

Use credit cards instead of debit cards. By law, your maximum liability in the case of fraud can’t be more than $50 if you report the fraud immediately to the card issuer and have taken reasonable steps to help safeguard your account information. In addition, credit cards aren’t linked to your bank account like debit cards. If your debit card falls into the wrong hands, a fraudster could access your account.

While you’re making your online purchase, don’t save your payment information on the website. If the site is compromised by online hackers or fraud, they could get access to this information.

Update your antivirus software before you shop. This can reduce your risk of infection from malware or viruses.

Check your network. If you’re using a private Wi-Fi network, make sure that it’s only accessible using a strong password. If you have to use a public network, you may want to access the web using a virtual private network (VPN) connection, which helps you securely browse the Internet. There are free VPN services available. You want to avoid activities like banking or online purchases on public Wi-Fi. Remember, just because a network requires a password doesn't mean it's secure.

Avoid using the same password across shopping websites – if one website is compromised, all your accounts using that password could be accessed.

And keep an eye on your credit reports and banking account statements for possible fraudulent activity in the months to come. If anything looks suspicious, you can contact the lender or creditor and your financial institutions. Regularly checking your credit reports can help spot any activity you don’t recognize, which may be a sign of potential identity theft. See how to get a free copy of your Equifax credit report.

To be even safer, consider the peace of mind offered by HUB's Personal Cyber Policy. For as little as $100 a year, you – and the members of your household - are protected against such things as online shopping fraud, identity theft, cyber attack, cyber extortion and much more. Get a quote today.

It even includes dark web monitoring. The dark web is a shadowy part of the Internet where cybercriminals meet anonymously to illegally buy, sell and trade everything from illicit goods to private information that can be used for identity theft. If you don’t know your email address or account numbers are out there, how can you protect yourself?

In order to have the merriest of holidays, take all the necessary cyber precautions ahead of your online shopping!

RELATED READING:Personal cyber protection a growing need: Experts

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