The Internet is a shopper’s paradise, especially for teens with a credit or pre-paid gift card (or access to yours). There are, however, rules they should follow to shop safely. Begin any online shopping session by making sure your security software is turned on, and is updated. Shop with only known and reputable sites, as using an unknown website can be risky. One way to increase safety is to make sure any page where you enter personal data such as your address or credit card number uses encryption. You can tell if it uses encryption by the web address, which will start with: https. Another thing to look for is the lock icon at the bottom of the browser frame, which is intended to indicate that the website you are visiting uses encryption to protect your communications.
Shopping on reputable sites is just the first step in being a safe online shopper. Don’t click links in email to get to a favourite store or sale. You should type the store address in the browser window. This will help prevent you from becoming a victim of a phishing attack, in which you are transferred to a fake version of your favourite store’s site. Phishers can steal your passwords, logins, stored credit card information, and worse.
Check credit card statements as often as possible—monthly at minimum. This is the best way to know who is using the card and to spot problems before they are difficult to resolve. The credit card company offers consumer protection and will work with you to manage any disputed or unauthorized charges. Don’t use debit cards online. Credit cards provide additional layers of protection, including the ability to question unusual charges. With a debit card, money may be removed from a bank account without anyone realizing it until the monthly statement appears. And it may take a while to get it back.
Online and Mobile Banking and Bill Paying
More and more people are thoroughly comfortable with online banking. Direct deposit of pay cheques to your bank is a great security measure, preventing someone from stealing your cheque from your mailbox, and it speeds up your access to the funds. It’s also a cost saver for your employer. Online tax filing is also becoming increasingly popular in Canada.
The latest trend from Canadian banks is mobile banking. There are numerous apps for Apple and Android devices from the major financial institutions, making depositing a cheque as easy as taking and sending a cell phone photo. Naturally, the early adopters of such technology are the younger members of the population but with practice, I’m sure more of us will give it a try.
Cybercriminals are ready to take advantage of these tools. We’ve already had a spate of malware like the Zeus Trojan that looked for online banking credentials and stole millions of dollars from victims. Some malware targets those who manage small business and charity accounts, taking information off of websites to send targeted “spearphishing” messages.
Stay on top of all electronic banking activity as you do with credit cards. Regularly access your account to check transactions. Make sure bills are paid on time and in the correct amount. Keep your computer protected in the same way you do for general Internet security to prevent people from stealing passwords or banking information. And don’t access your accounts from public computers, kiosks, or insecure wireless connections. Always type the web address of your bank into the web browser; never click a link from an email. When finished, be sure to logout of your account. Don’t store account login information in the browser.