Online shopping tips to keep your personal information safe

EAST PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) — Many will be heading online to finish their holiday shopping, but how do you keep your personal information safe?

With the rise of online shopping, scammers are finding more creative ways to try and get your personal data.

“A lot of scams come in through text messaging, which is a challenge because we can’t filter it out as much,” said Mike Tetreault with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

Tetreault has a long history with the Department of Homeland Security and now works out of Rhode Island for the CISA.

He told 12 News that it’s more than a full-time job tracking these invisible thieves on the other side of the computer.

“Really be suspicious. Be cautious. Take the extra step and just look at what’s in there. And don’t give out unsolicited financial information. If someone says hey send us your latest banking confirmation, I wouldn’t do that,” Tetreault explained.

Even though a website may seem real, it’s important to look at the web address. It should start with a lock symbol and the “HTTP” should be followed by an “S.”

“If I’m a true legitimate merchant, when I stand up my website, I actually pay a third party service company to generate what we call a digital certificate that is unique to my organization,” Tetreault said. “It has coding in the background that links it to my organization.”

Online shoppers are also encouraged to use a credit card to pay, rather than a debit card, because it’s easier to get money back if the information is stolen.

It’s also important to double-check before clicking links that are in emails and texts.

“Just like they can fool you with a fake website, they can also fool you with a fake email,” Tetreault said. “They can say, ‘hey this is Amazon shopping,’ and I mean most people do a lot of online shopping there, so it’s an easy net to cast, and they can dupe you into going somewhere you shouldn’t by clicking on a link in your email thinking it’s part of your order when in fact it’s not.”

Two-step verification is always a good idea to protect your passwords and information.

Overall, Tetreault says to be cautious and take the extra step to look at what you’re clicking on.

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