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Safe Holiday Shopping Starts with Three Simple Steps

For millions of Americans, when the weather cools off, our online shopping habits heat up. But as you begin shopping for gifts this holiday season, remember to be cautious! Every year, thousands of people fall victim to holiday scams — but you can take simple steps to protect yourself from the holiday blues.

1. Five Letters = One Secure Website

Safe online shopping is often as easy as keeping your eye out for five letters in a row: https.

It stands for ‘Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure’ — which is a fancy way of saying that the website you’re visiting is secure. When you visit a website with the intention of making an online purchase of any kind, double-check that ‘https’ is shown in the URL of the website. You might also spot a lock symbol (🔒) on or near the URL bar.

The most important letter in that sequence is the very last one: S for secure. Web addresses that start with https, compared to just http, use encryption to prevent your sensitive information from being intercepted by bad actors.

If you visit an online shopping website and it does not include https in the web address, don’t share any of your personal information on that website.

2. Don’t Download Apps You Don’t Trust

Shopping within apps is more commonplace than ever — so it’s no surprise that scammers have moved into the app space, too. Here are a few ways to spot a fake app that could contain malware to steal your personal information:

  • The Apple App Store and Google Play Store usually list an app’s developer/publisher underneath the name of the app. If the name of the publisher isn’t quite right, that’s a red flag.
  • Most apps won’t ask you for broad permissions. If you download an app and it requests access to your text messages, stored passwords, or credit card information, you should delete it.
  • If the app contains misspellings and poor grammar, it’s a sign that it’s fake or being run by scammers.

3. Click With Caution In Emails

If you receive an email from a source that you don’t recognize and it encourages you to click on a link, your suspicions should be raised. Even the best spam filters aren’t perfect, and you may receive an email that looks like it came from a reputable online retailer. What can you watch for?

  • Typos and grammatical mistakes. Major retailers typically don’t miss those in their editing processes!
  • Marketing emails almost never include attachments. Clicking unknown attachments could release malware onto your computer or smartphone.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Clicking on a link to claim a popular, expensive item for free could be a one-way ticket to a scam.

Online shopping is a convenient way to take care of holiday shopping — and by exercising caution when downloading apps, visiting websites, and opening emails, you’re reducing your risk of running into any Grinches this Christmas.

Of course, the team at First International Bank & Trust is always working to keep your finances safe and secure. We invite you to visit our Education Center for even more tips on safeguarding your identity and personal data. Have a happy holiday shopping season!