If you’ve ever purchased anything or banked online, like most of the population, you should pay extra close attention to this one.
Over the past decade, online retail has overtaken brick-and-mortar shopping because of the convenience it offers consumers. Similarly, online banking has followed suit. Why drive to the bank or wait in a long line when you can use an app or website instead?
But convenience comes at a price. We’ll give you a more in-depth look at the risks you run when buying and banking online. Plus, get our best tips for staying safe on the web.
The dangers of buying and banking online
Online banking and shopping websites are popular targets for cyberattacks. Visit one that’s been compromised and you’re opening yourself up to viruses, malware and phishing scams that allow criminals to steal your financial information and even your identity. The truth is, every time you make purchases or access our bank accounts online, you’re opening the door to all of these potential attacks.
When it comes to online banking, phishing, keylogging and pharming are common forms of attack and can be the most threatening to your account details. Accessing your bank account in a public setting only increases your level of vulnerability to attackers.
Keylogging, for example, involves software that can record your keystrokes and can be used to access your account later on. Internet cafes and public Wi-Fi are the typical settings for this kind of attack. Pharming occurs when hackers hijack a bank’s URL so that when you access your bank website, you are re-routed to a fake site that appears to be the real thing.
As far as online shopping goes, a malicious link, site or ad could easily infect your devices with various types of malware and viruses. The primary target among attackers is your account credentials, i.e. the email, and password linked to your account and purchases. Obtaining this info can lead to more serious threats such as identity theft and stolen financial data.
How can you protect yourself online?
- For starters, you need to be sure your connection is always secure between you and the site you’re accessing. If your visit to the site involves some kind of financial transaction, always take a look at the URL at the top of the page to ensure the session is encrypted so it can’t be accessed by any third-party. Look for a lock or a URL that begins with https instead of just HTTP.
- Keep a close eye on your accounts and double-check every transaction. If you do catch any discrepancies, contact your bank or credit card company right away for assistance. If you’re a regular online shopper, consider using an online payment service to keep and safeguard your credit card info in order to avoid theft.
- Never, ever trust suspicious emails. As we covered earlier, phishing scams are a huge problem. Hackers can send an email to a potential consumer acting as his or her bank or a credible online shopping website. Be aware of emails that contain promotions or sales that seem just too good to be true. If an email asks you to disclose sensitive banking info or click a link, don’t do it. It’s always best to type the official web address into your browser instead of clicking a link.
- Use two-factor authentication to add another layer of protection to your accounts. Sometimes this come in the form of a security question or typing in a captcha. Most commonly, though, two-factor authentication has you receive a text message with a code from the platform you’re trying to access. This code verifies your identity and makes sure you’re the person you say you are online. Be sure to enable this option on your banking site. The extra step is worth it.