Take Cyber Monday by Storm: 5 Best Practices for Secure Online Shopping

13 November 2015

As the holiday season draws closer, many of you are thinking about what gifts you'll buy your friends and family. But this year, it's not as enjoyable as last year because of the looming threat of cyber-attacks. According to a recent survey by Equifax Canada, almost of Canadians surveyed (49 percent) say they are particularly worried about the risk of identity theft when making online purchases.

Fortunately, Canadians also seem to be more aware of the risks than ever before. The survey revealed that 81 percent have taken at least one of the following steps to mitigate identity theft risks over the last 12 months:

  • 53 percent double-checked their credit card statements
  • 41 percent updated security passwords
  • 34 percent shared less about themselves on social media
  • 27 percent installed security software
  • 21 percent used cash more often
  • 15 percent checked their credit report
  • 15 percent shopped less online
  • 4 percent purchased an identity theft product

Equifax Canada's Chief of Privacy Officer, John Russo says, "Data breaches are on the rise and while it’s encouraging that some people are taking steps to protect their personal data, many remain easy targets for identity thieves and fraudsters. We know these criminals are more active during the run-up to the holidays when people are buying gifts. We encourage people to be more cautious when shopping online and to check their credit report regularly."

Even with the growing identity theft concerns that same survey found that 75 percent of shoppers still planned on making purchases online this year. With that in mind, we've put together a few tips to help you stay safe this holiday season when you shop online:

  • Look out for phishing attempts: With so many online retailers sending out information on special offers or promotional contests via email, fraudsters will take advantage of the fray and try to blend in as legitimate emails. However, online contests promoting large prizes or extreme discounts may in fact be scams hoping to capture your information or deliver malware.
  • Change your passwords: Having an easy-to-decipher password to an online shopping account is like leaving your credit card unattended next to a cash register. To give your security a boost, switch up your passwords before the holiday shopping season begins. For a strong password do not use full words or phrases and never duplicate passwords across multiple sites.
  • Beware of public wi-fi: While they offer convenient connectivity for on-the-go browsing, public networks cannot guarantee the security of your information. Feel free to cozy up at a cafe and browse, but don’t sign in to your accounts or make any purchases until you’re connected to a secure, private network.
  • Shop secure sites only: Whether you’re connected to a public or private network, checking out on an unsecured website can put your personal information at risk. To reduce your chances of becoming a victim of credit fraud, only enter your credit card information on sites with URLs beginning with “https.” The “s” in the address stands for “secure,” and lets you know that your connection to the site is less likely to be overseen by hackers.
  • Check your credit report: No matter how careful you are, there is unfortunately no surefire way to completely prevent identity theft. As the holiday season winds down, it’s a great time to order a copy of your credit report from either TransUnion or Equifax and check for inaccuracies. To get more up-to-date notifications of certain activity on your credit files that could indicate fraud, consider signing up for a credit monitoring.

Remember stay safe and have a very happy holiday!