Protect Your Love of Online Shopping This Valentine’s Day

By Steve Platt, Global EVP, Fraud and Identity, Experian

Experian’s Fraud and Identity business, the leader in customer-centric identity and fraud solutions, is encouraging online shoppers to be cautious of fraud while shopping for their loved ones this Valentine’s Day. E-commerce sales continue to increase each year, with online shopping around Valentine’s Day increasing 10% in 2015 compared to the previous year.

“While Valentine’s Day may not create as much traffic as Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it is still a popular holiday for online shoppers and therefore a target for opportunistic fraudsters,” said Steve Platt, Global EVP, Fraud and Identity, Experian. “Shopping online is not only convenient but also can be a great way to snag last-minute bargains. With so many retailers offering exclusive online deals and free shipping, mobile and web commerce continue to outpace overall sales growth year over year. Unfortunately, many consumers hesitate to take advantage of this channel because they are concerned about fraud. Rather than abandoning their love of online shopping, consumers can protect themselves by following a few simple tips when it comes to online security.”

Steve Platt offers tips for consumers who love to shop online for that perfect Valentine’s Day gift:

Don’t hesitate to shop from mobile devices

In 2015 mobile accounted for 35% of all online sales, an increase of 21% from the previous year. Mobile is the most convenient option for today’s on-the go consumer and it can be just as safe as a desktop browser. In fact, security has come a long way in the mobile channel, with a bulk of transactions migrating away from mobile web browsers to more personal, experience-focused retailer native apps. In order to make sure your mobile device is secure, consumers should treat all devices accessing the web just like a computer to make sure they aren’t vulnerable to attacks. While it is true that mobile devices are less-heavily attacked than desktop browsers, fraudsters are quickly learning that mobile users are not as vigilant in protecting their phones and tablets, leaving this channel a bit more exposed than in recent years.

 Be mindful of phishing schemes

Whether online or on mobile, shoppers need to be aware of phishing schemes. Phishing, most often seen in emails, social media or SMS, involves sending malicious messages that try to entice you to click on a link. Unfortunately, one harmless click to check out the latest cool video from an anonymous phone number can allow fraudsters access to install malicious software on your device or to steal sensitive information from your laptop. Be extremely skeptical when something seems unusual or an offer is too good to be true.

Be smart about where you shop online

While sales and deals are enticing, make sure you aren’t falling into a trap. Your best bet is to shop with an online retailer that you know and trust, or shop the online stores of reputable brands. If you aren’t familiar with the site, be sure to do your research before sharing any personal or payment information. Beware of links with misspellings or sites using domains other than .com. URLs ending in .biz or .global, as an example, may be indicators that the site is not credible. Most importantly, never buy anything from a site without the secure padlock in your browser bar or doesn’t start with HTTPS://. The S means that SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption is installed.

 Use safe payment options

In today’s environment, there are many different ways to pay for online purchases. However, credit cards still tend to be the safest options. Virtually all network-branded credit cards have a zero-liability policy, meaning that consumers pay nothing if their card or account information is stolen and used fraudulently. While most debit cards offer the same liability protection, the difference is that the funds are automatically pulled out of your bank account. With a debit card, you would need to dispute the transaction and await reimbursement after the bank’s investigation, whereas with a credit card, the money is most likely immediately credited back to your card.

Do not use a public computer or Wi-Fi to shop online

Computers cache or save information to optimize speed and enhance your Internet experience, but if you are using a public computer, information such as your browsing history or even your login information may be stored automatically and accessible to strangers who log in after you. If you leave the computer without logging out of certain sites or closing the browser window, others might be able to access your accounts. To protect yourself, only shop online using devices and networks that you know and trust. If you need to make a purchase when out and about, take advantage of merchants’ mobile web sites or native apps, ensuring that you only download apps from reputable, policed sites like the iOS App Store or the Google Play Store. Also be sure to avoid transacting via public Wi-Fi hotspots at airports and coffee shops, or on networks that you do not recognize.

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