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Click and tap your way through holiday shopping

Tips for protecting your data and safely shopping online

It’s no wonder that online shopping is steadily gaining popularity. Retailers are offering some very enticing incentives – plenty of bargains, mind-boggling selection, fast (and sometimes free!) shipping and most offer easy returns. Perhaps best of all, you don’t have to circle a crowded parking lot for 20 minutes before you snag your first deal (unless, of course, you leave it until the last minute).  

Just like savvy mall shoppers who map out routes and coordinate shopping schedules, online shoppers need a plan. A few simple steps will help you avoid potential problems when creating online accounts and making purchases.

Strong passwords protect data

If the code that grants access to any of your accounts is “123456” or “password,” change it now. These have held the top two spots in the list of worst passwords every year since SplashData, a password management software provider, started it in 2011. You need a strong password to protect your data from hackers.

Strong passwords include a mix of at least 10 numbers, symbols and upper- and lower-case letters. You should avoid using the same one for all websites because if it’s stolen, all of your personal information is at risk. And be sure to keep personal identification numbers (PINs) and passwords secret.

Tips for safe online shopping

Go direct. You should avoid links and ads, since these are often used to send traffic to malicious websites. It’s best to either type in the address of your favourite retailers or bookmark them so you don’t inadvertently get rerouted.

Beware of public Wi-Fi. If you don’t need a network password to connect in a public place, you’re using an unsecured network, which means a nearby hacker can easily see what you’re doing. You should never shop online using public Wi-Fi.

Look for the signs. Always check the address of your online store before you log in or make a purchase. Most browsers include a colour-change in the address bar and a padlock icon (it can also be in the lower-right corner of the window) to show that data is encrypted. It’s also a good sign to see HTTPS at the beginning of the URL rather than HTTP (the “s” indicates secure).

These precautions will help protect your personal data while you’re shopping but common sense is your best defense. Shop at well-known online stores and do your homework before setting up an account or making a purchase at unfamiliar stores. You should also consider using a credit card with zero liability so you’re covered if there are unauthorized transactions. Investors Group’s Solutions Banking TM World TM1 and World EliteTM1 MasterCards ® offer purchase protection, along with many other travel and reward benefits. Talk to us about the one that’s right for you.

Your online shopping checklist

  • Create strong passwords
  • Look for the padlock icon and/or HTTPS
  • Type in the site URL and don’t click on links in emails
  • Familiarize yourself with your credit card fraud policies

October 20, 2015

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This column, written and published by Investors Group Financial Services Inc. (in Québec – a Financial Services Firm), and Investors Group Securities Inc. (in Québec, a firm in Financial Planning) presents general information only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any investments. Contact your own advisor for specific advice about your circumstances. For more information on this topic please contact your Investors Group Consultant.