5 Steps for Seniors Who Shop Online

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woman and man looking at computer screen

As worries about the COVID-19 crisis persist, seniors are turning to online shopping for everything from groceries to ordering stamps from the post office. With a few clicks you can order necessities and have them delivered right to your door. Unfortunately, not every online store is legitimate.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, shoppers filed nearly 467,361 online-theft complaints in 2019. Those complaints resulted in a whopping $3.5 billion lost. As the spread of coronavirus lingers, it’s essential for older adults to learn how to stay safe online.

In honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, recognized every October, we share five tips for online shoppers.

5 Safety Tips for the Online Shopper

  1. Order from stores you know and trust offline.

While many online stores are safe and legitimate, others aren’t. Knowing which ones are safe and which to avoid can be challenging. One suggestion is to buy from stores online that you enjoy shopping at in person. In addition to protecting your identity and privacy, this approach also ensures the quality of the products you are ordering.

  1. Beware of links in emails.

Scammers have become quite sophisticated. Their emails can even look identical to those from popular stores and financial institutions. It’s often impossible to tell which are legitimate and which aren’t.

Beware of emails encouraging you to click on a link. It might ask you to update your account or say it’s time to change your password. If you click on the link, you are often taken to a website designed to steal your data and financial information. Instead, go directly to the company’s website or call them to validate the authenticity of any concerning messages you receive.

  1. Check the site’s security.

Another tip is to make sure a site’s web address begins with a tiny icon of a lock and includes “https.” That combination signals a site is secure. If you don’t see that lock or the “s” after “http,” the webpage may not be safe. Entering credit card information on a site like this can put you at risk for fraud.

  1. Use a credit card, not debit.

If you shop online using a debit card instead of a credit card, a thief can drain your checking or savings account before you realize anything is wrong. If the vendor you buy from isn’t legitimate, the credit card company will be able to protect you. Your bank probably can too, but it usually takes longer. Money might not be available from your accounts while the matter is under investigation.

  1. Monitor monthly statements.

Lastly, review account charges and debits every month. More often is even better. Make sure the charges listed are for purchases you made and that you are credited for any returns. Since the COVID-19 crisis has placed high demand on shipping companies and the postal service, packages are being delayed and lost in higher numbers.

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