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Online shopping just makes sense on so many levels — it's easy and convenient, and it's definitely safer than visiting a store in person while we're still living through a global pandemic. But online shopping opens you up to the risk of having your personal information stolen by cybercriminals.
Data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) show that identity theft is on the rise. In 2020, the agency received nearly 1.4 million reports of identity theft, which is about twice as many reports as the FTC received in 2019.
Keeping your information secure while you're shopping online is crucial. One way to do that is with the help of a password manager, like LastPass Premium. Here's what else you need to know to make it happen.
What are the biggest cybersecurity issues that can happen when you shop online?
"Identity fraud is one of the worst worrisome risks for shopping online," tech and cybersecurity expert Chuck Brooks, president of Brooks Consulting International, tells Yahoo Life. "If your personal data is stolen from a website or from a hacker, it will likely be either used by them or traded on the dark web."
Tom Kelly, president and chief executive officer of the consumer privacy platform IDX, tells Yahoo Life that cybersecurity issues can come in the form of package delivery scams, fake products, and companies requesting unusual forms of payment. "Scammers have been getting sneakier with package delivery emails by using phishing scams that often feel like the email is from the company with a fake logo and order information, however is indeed a malicious link," he says.
How to stay safe and secure while shopping online
There are a few things you can do to stay safe while you're shopping online.
Get a password manager. "You can ensure your passwords are protected by using a military grade password manager," Kelly says. "This helps ensure that you’re storing your passwords in a safe way that prevents them from being hacked." Signing up for a password manager like LastPass Premium can help ensure that you create a strong enough password for each account you own — and keep it in a secure file — so that your data will remain private.
Make sure you're using reputable payment options. If a website asks you to pay using Bitcoin, e-Gold, or wire transfers, Kelly recommends shopping elsewhere.
Make sure your delivery email is legitimate. "After ordering your items, be on the lookout for your package delivery email, but ensure the notification looks legitimate and from the company you ordered from," Kelly says. If you're unsure, don't click on any links in the email.
Use unique passwords. Using the same password across multiple sites opens you up for having your information stolen if any of those sites are hacked. That's why Kelly recommends using "unique, hard-to-guess or auto-generated passwords" for each site. (Again, a password manager like LastPass Premium can help here by coming up with those passwords and storing them safely for you.)
Use multi-factor authentication. In case you're not familiar with it, multi-factor authentication involves using another layer of information to protect your account aside from just your password. It could be something like a photo that your account is always associated with, or answering a personal question after you fill in your password. Brooks recommends using this tool "on all your various merchant accounts."
Shop from vendors you know. "Any time a digitally-connected consumer does a transaction online, they have to rely on the retail vendor’s security as well as their own," Brooks says. "Make sure you are dealing with a legitimate vendor."
Online shopping comes with some level of risk, experts say, but having the right tools to help you navigate it should severely lower the odds that you'll be victim to online security issues while you shop.
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