ComScore Inc predicts that U.S. e-commerce sales will grow 16 percent to $55.2 billion this holiday season – and that’s following the 14 percent rise in 2012. Online stores are changing the way we shop from daily groceries to holiday gifts. RelayFoods brings locally grown produce to your door; Best Buy Marketplace uses an Amazon-like model to sell merchandise from multiple retailers; and shopping local is now as easy as the click of a button.
But with all that convenience comes a price – and we don’t mean the cost of that Philadelphia Eagles Decorative Shoe Bottle Holder that somehow ended up in your online cart. Shoppers need to be on guard against credit card fraud and identity theft. Hackers and malicious websites are out there waiting. Don’t make yourself an easy target.
Before proceeding with that transaction, ask yourself these e-commerce security questions:
- Are you on a secure network? Unsecured public wifi can sometimes save the day, but this is not where you should handle sensitive transactions. Don’t forget, unsecure means unsecure. The convenience doesn’t outweigh the elevated risk.
- Are you on the correct website? Retailer and bank websites are often falsified, where malicious sites called spoofs masquerade as the real thing. Beware of simply following links sent to you via email or originating in pop-up ads. Look at the domain name before proceeding. Is it TrustedRetailer.com, where you’ve often shopped? Or is it perhaps TrstedRetailer.com or TrustedRetailer.FaLaLaLaLa.com? Watch out for subtle misspellings and extra text/numbers preceding the “.com” or other top level domain.
- Do you see “https”? Most websites have “http” – standing for “hypertext transfer protocol” – in front of the web address. At the checkout of a secure e-commerce website, this should change to “https” – or “hypertext transfer protocol secure.” This lettering change verifies a layering of cryptographic protocols that enhance communication security over the Internet.
- Do you see a closed lock icon in your browser’s address bar? The closed lock icon in gray or green shows that a website has a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Extended Validation Secure Sockets Layer (EV-SSL) certificate. This is the cryptographic protocol that adds the “s” to “https” as noted above. You should see this icon at checkout in most browsers, though some – such as Firefox 11+ for Windows 7 – utilize a gray or green highlight rather than a lock. Beware of red highlighting and/or an open lock at checkout.
In the world of e-commerce security, consumers must learn to be smart. Be suspicious of offers that seem too good to be true, and do research before shopping at an unfamiliar site. These strategies are the same as in physical shopping environments, but sometimes in the convenience of the digital moment, we forget to use common sense.
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It’s predicted that by 2017, 60% of all U.S. retail sales will involve the Internet in some way, either as a direct e-commerce transaction or as part of a shopper’s research (Forrester Research, “U.S. Cross-Channel Retail Forecast, 2012 To 2017”). The time and money we spend online will only grow from here. Make sure your investments of both don’t put you at risk.
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