More shoppers are expected to choose online shopping this holiday season amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
But other dangers lurk online, and most shoppers are not aware that they could be putting their personal financial data at risk.
A majority of shoppers — 59% — said they plan to make more purchases online this holiday season, a National Retail Federation survey found.
So far, that is proving to be true, with Black Friday online sales up 21.6% year over year, according to Adobe Analytics, as shoppers spent $9 billion online the day after Thanksgiving. Estimates indicate Cyber Monday sales could total between $10.8 billion and $12.7 billion.
However, consumers may want to be careful before they click and buy.
Separate research from Bankrate recently found that 91% of adults have put their personal financial information at risk while shopping online.
The most common mistake: reusing online passwords, which was cited by 80% of Bankrate survey respondents.
Another risky behavior — saving passwords on computers and phones — was cited by 45% of shoppers. Meanwhile, 39% admitted to also saving payment information on those devices.
One big no-no — using public WiFi to make those purchases — was cited by 36% of respondents. Not using a secure network can expose your passwords and other private financial information.
In addition to avoiding those missteps, there are other actions consumers should consider taking to protect their personal financial information, according to Ted Rossman, industry analyst at Bankrate and CreditCards.com.
First, use a credit card instead of a debit card.
"If your debit card is hacked, that's real money missing from your checking account, and it will probably take weeks to get it back," Rossman said.
Credit cards also typically offer more fraud protection, which can help you if you need to dispute a transaction, he said.
The one caveat: You need to pay your credit card bill in full in order to avoid the average 16% interest those accounts typically charge.
Next, consider freezing your credit, which will stop anyone from being able to open new accounts in your name. This can be done either online or over the phone by contacting the three major credit scoring companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Also be sure to check your credit and bank statements regularly to monitor for any suspicious activity to your current accounts.
You may also want to consider using a disposable virtual card number instead of your permanent credit card numbers, Rossman said. Credit card companies like Apple Card, Citi and Capital One offer this feature. PayPal Key lets you create virtual card numbers not only for credit cards, but also debit cards and checking accounts.