Five Tips to Help Your Members Shop Securely Online This Holiday Season


‘Tis the season for holiday shopping, but it’s also the season for cybercrime. With consumers turning in droves to online retailers, it’s key they know how to keep their data and money safe.

According to a recent TransUnion survey, 50% of U.S. consumers are concerned with being victimized by fraudsters this holiday season. This isn’t surprising; cyber threats increased significantly this year, with scammers taking advantage of the pandemic to swindle consumers out of their money. In fact, a study conducted between Oct. 28 to Nov. 5, found that 37% of 9,515 consumers surveyed globally said they had been targeted by digital fraud related to COVID-19.

As trusted financial partners, credit unions can help their members and employees avoid falling victim to fraud by reminding them of good cyber hygiene practices.

  1. Stick to credit cards whenever possible. Debit cards pull money directly from your checking account. So, if your debit card information is ever compromised, fraudsters will have immediate access to the funds in your account. Credit cards provide a barrier between scammers and your bank account. If someone steals your credit card info and makes a purchase, you’ll have time to report and reverse the charge before your bill is due.
  2. Only shop on secure, familiar sites. Never buy anything online from a site that doesn’t have secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption installed. To figure out if a site has SSL, look at the URL. It should start with HTTPS instead of just HTTP. You should also see a padlock icon to the left of the URL or in the address bar. HTTPS is standard now even on non-shopping sites, and Google Chrome even flags webpages without the extra S as “not secure.” Additionally, it’s always a good idea to shop from websites you know and trust.
  3. Beware of scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It’s all too easy for cyber criminals to launch genuine-looking shopping sites and wait for unsuspecting buyers to enter their personal information and credit card details. Hackers also often send emails with malicious attachments hoping that the receiver will click them and unknowingly download information-stealing malware to their system. 
  4. Strengthen your passwords. It’s an old adage, but it bears repeating. Longer, more complex passwords that use a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols take longer to hack. According to this chart, it could take 34,000 years to hack a 12-character, complex password. If you’re having trouble remembering all of your passwords, use a password manager.
  5. Avoid using public Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi hotspots at coffee shops, malls, or airports are generally not safe and should be avoided when shopping online. Hackers may be spying, waiting for any opportunity to steal your name, address, and credit card information. 

Despite the risks of cybercrime seemingly lurking in every corner, it can still be the most wonderful time of year — all it takes is a little vigilance.

Recently, OnPoint Community Credit Union shared some great cybersecurity tips with members. Check it out online. And BECU offers online cybersecurity classes that anyone can take.

Want more information on cybersecurity? Check out Strategic Link partner, IP Services.

Does your credit union offer members tips and classes on cybersecurity? Send us an email — we’d love to hear all about it and share with readers.

Posted in Public Awareness.