HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – When you hear the words “buy smart”, you might first think we’re talking about saving money or not overspending.
With online shopping, “buy smart” has a different meaning: don’t get ripped off or hacked.
With many retailers already offering Black Friday-style sales, it’s tempting to get an early start with holiday shopping, but before you overspend your money, take a few steps to protect yourself online.
Too many people buy and spend money online using free public Wi-Fi. Almost all restaurants and cafes now offer free Wi-Fi. It’s practical but not secure.
Take a look the next time you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi network and count how many people are looking at their phones or laptops. There may be dozens of people connected to the same free, unsecured network.
All it takes is for someone who knows what they’re doing tap into your phone or laptop to see your information. It’s not easy, but cybercriminals know all the tricks.
Here’s what to do instead of buying on free Wi-Fi: Disconnect from the network and shop using your mobile provider’s network. It is secure.
If you’re using a laptop, disconnect from free Wi-Fi and connect to your phone’s personal hotspot. Most phone plans now include them.
If you’ve never used it, open the Settings app and search for a mobile or personal hotspot. You’ll probably just have to drag a button to activate it and make it available for other people to log in.
To connect to the personal hotspot, all you need to do is search for available networks on the laptop and find the name of your phone. You will also need to enter the password that you will find on your phone.
If you insist on shopping or browsing free WiFi networks, it is best to use a VPN or virtual private network. This software connects you to the Internet using a fake IP address from another part of the country or the world.
There are many benefits to using a VPN, not the least of which is doing anything involving bank or credit cards. A VPN encrypts your computer, so even if someone tried to hack it successfully, they would only see scrambled numbers and no useful information.
There are many VPNs to choose from. Express VPN and Nord VPN are highly rated and respected. They require a subscription which costs $ 7 / month to $ 12 / month, but will protect all of your computers and phones. Beware of free VPNs that you find in app stores and advertised online.
Do not use a debit card when shopping online. If you have one on Amazon, Walmart, eBay, or any other retailer, remove it.
Debit cards are directly connected to your bank account and can be emptied quickly by a cybercriminal. Credit card companies protect your money and will alert you to suspicious activity. I also recommend using PayPal when you see it as a payment option.
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