Online Shopping And Identity Theft: What Staff Needs To Know

A great deal of shopping takes place online. In the first 21 days of November 2017, Americans spent $28.6 billion shopping online. Unfortunately, cybercriminals have many ways to steal credit card numbers or identities from online shoppers.

Cybersecurity expert Dr. Yair Levy, who works for the U.S. Secret Service and the FBI, states that identity theft is the biggest risk for consumers who shop online. Online shoppers enter all of the information—name, address, date of birth, credit card numbers—that cybercriminals want in order to steal your identity.

Identity thieves often use phishing scams to steal online shoppers' personal data. Phishing emails are those appearing to be from a trusted online retailer, like Wal-Mart or Amazon, and offering huge discounts. When a user clicks on the fake link and enters the requested personal data, it goes to the hackers.

Cybercriminals also create free Wi-Fi networks with legitimate sounding names, and then steal your information when you use them. Once you connect to their network, cybercriminals can see your online activity and infect your device with malware that will record the data you enter anytime you shop online, even after you leave their network. Doreen Christensen "Online shopping safety tips from a cybersecurity expert," (Nov. 28, 2017).

Commentary and Checklist

Family employers must make sure that both they and their staff practice good cybersecurity habits when shopping online for the family. Doing so is essential to protect your family’s data from identity thieves.

Designate one credit card for staff to use for online purchases. Have a second card that staff can use for purchases in brick-and-mortar stores and paying bills. Hackers are more likely to steal the number of the credit card used online. Dedicating a separate card makes it easier to cancel that card if it is compromised, and still have another card that staff can use while the compromised card is being replaced.

Remind staff that they must also protect credit card information when shopping in brick-and-mortar stores to reduce the risk of identity theft. Only use credit cards that have a chip in them. Train staff to not let credit cards out of their sight, and to notify you immediately if a card goes missing.

Here are some tips both family employers and their staff should follow when shopping online:

  • Only shop on the legitimate websites of trusted companies.
  • Verify that the site is secure by looking for the padlock symbol or https:// web address before making purchases on the site.
  • Do not trust online offers that appear to be too good to be true.
  • Do not try to get the cheapest price for a product online. Instead, watch for sales and discounts from trusted sites.
  • Do not purchase from pop-up ads
  • Use your mobile device's data plan, rather than free Wi-Fi, when shopping online on your device.
  • Never make a purchase by clicking on a link contained in an email. Instead, enter the web address of the retailer yourself and look for the offer to verify that it is legitimate.
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