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Online Shopping Identity: Protect Your Personal Information


Online shopping has its benefits, especially when you’re in the market for something specific that you just can’t find anywhere else. But with all the advantages come some risks as well. If you’ve read any news recently, you’ll know that cybercrime is on the rise, and personal information security is a major concern for everyone who uses the Internet regularly. You may think that it won’t happen to you – after all, what could go wrong when you’re buying something online? Personally identifiable information (PII) such as your name, address, phone number, and even credit card information are sensitive enough that malicious actors will do whatever they can to trick you into giving it up so they can steal your identity or sell it on the dark web for personal gain. Sounds frightening? It should. Here are some tips and tricks to keep your personal information safe while shopping online:


Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi to Shop Online

Public Wi-Fi hotspots are a veritable goldmine for hackers. The convenience of being able to access the Internet anywhere is a double-edged sword; while it’s great that you can connect wherever you go, it’s also incredibly easy for malicious actors to intercept your information and steal your identity. How can you avoid this? Never, ever use public Wi-Fi to shop online. Even if you’re using a virtual private network (more on that in the next section), you’re at risk of hackers intercepting your information when you’re connected to the Internet via a public Wi-Fi hotspot.


Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

In the same way that you can use a private network to connect two devices without an Internet service provider (ISP) in between them, VPN software creates a virtual private network (a private network across the Internet) between your computer and the VPN server. VPNs encrypt all of your data before it leaves your device, and they make sure that nobody is listening in on your communications. You can use a VPN to make sure that your shopping data is safe – and in a lot of cases, you can use the VPN to make your location appear to be somewhere else so that your data is not subject to foreign surveillance laws or regulations. VPNs can cost anywhere between $5 and $20 per month, depending on factors such as the length of your subscription and the features you choose.


Set Strong and Unique Passwords

Hackers love to take advantage of unfortunate people who haven’t learned to set strong and unique passwords for every account they own. You may have heard that it’s a good idea to change your passwords every few months, but we’re now at the point where experts recommend that you change your passwords every few weeks. Why? The data breach at Equifax in September 2020 exposed the personal information of 147.9 million people. That data breach has been a game-changer for how we should think about our security online. The best way to avoid falling victim to a data breach is to make sure that hackers don’t have access to your accounts and that they can’t guess your passwords. With that in mind, you should use long passwords (16 characters or more is ideal) that include random numbers, letters, and symbols. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts – that just makes it easier for hackers to get in everywhere.


Check Out With a Credit Card, Not PayPal

This is one of the easiest ways to avoid having your information stolen: pay with a credit card instead of PayPal. Credit cards have stronger consumer protections than PayPal, and they require a name and address (which means you can be held liable if someone steals your information and uses it to shop online). If someone steals your PayPal account, they can make purchases with your credit card or bank account, and you’re out that money and those protections. Credit cards are better. But what if you don’t have a credit card?


Don’t Click on Strange Links or Bad Ads

Hackers have become very sophisticated in their methods of tricking you into letting them into your accounts. From phishing scams to posing as IT support technicians, these cybercriminals will do anything to get their hands on your valuable data. To protect yourself against hackers, you must be vigilant and take steps to secure your devices. Keep the following tips in mind when using your devices to stay safe from hackers. They’ll embed malicious code in ads on legitimate websites, including shopping sites like Amazon. If you click on any of those ads before you’ve fully verified that they’re safe, you’re giving the malicious actor access to your computer. You don’t want that. If a link looks strange or if the ad looks a bit off, don’t click on it. Hover your cursor over the link to see where it goes before you decide to click. If it’s not where you expect it to go, don’t click on it.


Install an Ad Blocker and Browser Extension

This is going to sound like we’re contradicting what we said above, but bear with us: a good ad blocker can make the Internet safer for you. With the right ad blocker installed on your device, you can make sure that you never see malicious ads again. You can also add extensions to your browser that can detect malicious code, prevent you from accessing websites that contain malware, and warn you if you’re at risk of giving away your information to a hacker. Finally, you can use a virtual private network (mentioned above) to encrypt your communications and make sure that nobody can see what you’re doing online.



Online shopping is undoubtedly convenient, but having your personal information stolen is an incredibly scary scenario. If you are concerned about the safety of your information when shopping online, there are some steps you can take to keep yourself safe. First, make sure to shop at trusted sites that have secure connections. You can check if an HTTPS connection is in place by looking for that “ locked icon in your browser’s URL bar. You should also make sure you aren’t sharing your information with too many sites; this makes it easier for hackers to piece together your profile. If you are shopping on a site that requires you to sign up for an account, make sure you are using a unique email address that isn’t associated with any other accounts. Another important thing to keep in mind is that you should never input your credit card information on an unencrypted site. If you want to make sure that you’re keeping your data safe, make sure to follow these tips and tricks. Investing a bit of time and effort into keeping your data safe is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with knowing that nobody can steal your information.

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