Hoover Police share 15 tips to protect your information while shopping online

With more people shopping online, more scammers are taking advantage of people.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center’s (IC3) 2021 report, non-payment or non-delivery scams cost people more than $337 million, and credit card fraud accounted for another $173 million.

“Online shopping has grown tremendously in the past few years,” the Hoover Police Department posted on Facebook. “It offers convenience for consumers, but it also provides opportunities for scammers and cybercriminals to take advantage.”

The Hoover Police Department shared several tips on how to protect your wallet online:

  1. Be cautious of e-mails claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from KNOWN senders. Always run a virus scan on attachments before opening.

  2. Log on directly to the official Web site for the business identified in the e-mail, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited e-mail. If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.

  3. Secure your computer. Make sure your computer has the latest security updates installed. Check that your anti-virus and anti-spyware software are running properly and are receiving automatic updates from the vendor. If you have not already done so, install a firewall before you begin your online shopping.

  4. Upgrade your browser. Upgrade your Internet browser to the most recent version available. Review the browser’s security settings. Apply the highest level of security available that still gives you the functionality you need.

  5. Secure your transactions. Look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar and be sure “https” appears in the website’s address bar before making an online purchase. The “s” stands for “secure” and indicates that the communication with the webpage is encrypted. Also look for a broken key symbol indicating a non-secure connection. Some browsers can be set to warn the user if they are submitting information that is not encrypted.

  6. Be wary of potential scams. If the online offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Cybercriminals will look to take advantage of the volume of online shoppers to tempt users to fall prey to online scams.

  7. Use strong passwords. Create strong passwords for online accounts. Use at least eight characters, with numbers, special characters, and upper and lower case letters. Don’t use the same passwords for online shopping websites that you use for logging onto your bank, home or work computer. Never share your login information with anyone.

  8. Do not email sensitive data. Never e-mail credit card or other financial/sensitive information. E-mail is like sending a postcard and other people have the potential to read it. Beware of emails requesting account or purchase information. Delete these emails. Legitimate businesses don’t solicit information through email.

  9. Ignore pop-up messages. Set your browser to block pop-up messages. If you do receive one, click on the “X” at the top right corner of the title bar to close the pop-up message.

  10. Do not use public computers OR public WIFI to conduct transactions. Public computers could potentially contain malicious software that steals your credit card information when you place your order. Criminals could be monitoring public wireless networks for credit card numbers and other confidential information.

  11. Review privacy policies. Review the privacy policy for the website/merchant you are visiting. Know what information the merchant is collecting about you, how it will be stored, how it will be used, and if it will be shared or sold to others.

  12. Don’t use DEBIT cards. Pay by credit card rather than debit card. Credit/charge card transactions are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Cardholders are typically only liable for the first $50 in unauthorized charges. If online criminals obtain your debit card information they have the potential to empty your bank account.

  13. Use temporary account authorizations. Some credit card companies offer virtual or temporary credit card numbers. This service gives you a temporary account number for online transactions. These numbers are issued for a short period of time and cannot be used after that period.

  14. Select merchants carefully. Limit your online shopping to merchants you trust. Confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number beforehand. If you have problems, concerns, or questions regarding a merchant, check with the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission. Don’t forget to review the merchant’s return policies to avoid product return issues.

  15. Keep a record of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and copies of every e-mail you send or receive from the seller. Review your credit card and bank statements for unauthorized charges.

If you become a scam victim, contact your bank and dispute the charge. Also, contact local law enforcement and the FBI.

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