Be safe when shopping online this holiday season

As holiday shopping ramps up, many consumers will turn to their computers, tablets and smartphones to research and purchase gifts and holiday-related supplies.

Online shopping has its perks, but there are also risks involved. It’s important to know how to shop safely online this holiday season to ensure your credit card and personal identifying information is not obtained by criminals.

Here is some advice to make your online shopping experience a secure one:

Choose your card carefully

Most times when you shop online, you’ll need to enter card data into an online form. Many people choose their credit cards, while others reach for their debit cards. Though they may look alike, there are important differences between to two, especially when it comes to online shopping.

Your credit card is not linked to your bank account. When you swipe the card or enter the digits into a form, your credit card issuer is the one fronting the bill; you’ll just pay it off later. This means that if a criminal steals your credit card information, he or she does not have access to your bank account.

This is not true for debit cards; these are directly linked to your bank account. This means that if someone obtains your debit card number, he or she could potentially reach into your bank account and take your funds.

Setting up alerts with your checking account, such as a phone notification whenever a purchase over a certain amount is placed, can help you monitor unauthorized activity and identify it quicker.

Another important difference between credit and debit cards is the legal process following fraud. Credit cards are more heavily protected, and most consumers who experience fraud with their credit cards won’t pay for fraudulent charges, The Balance noted. In many cases, the most you’ll lose is $50.

Debit cards, on the other hand, are trickier to dispute fraud with, and the process to resolve issues is longer.

Mobile wallets are another secure way to pay. By using Bank Midwest’s mobile wallet, you can make quick and safe payments at your favorite stores that accept Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Android Pay.

Shop at home (or on a secure network)

One perk of online shopping is its convenience. You can make a purchase while walking your dog, if you really wanted to. But just because you can shop anywhere you like doesn’t mean you should. If you’re connected to public Wi-Fi, there’s always a chance that a hacker is spying on your activity and stealing your card data, NerdWallet pointed out. When you’re connected to your own internet at home or another network you know is secure, this isn’t the case.

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