Stay Safe, Protect Identify When Shopping Online by Joseph L.Saka, CPA/PFS

Posted on December 08, 2016 by Joseph Saka

It can be argued that online shopping is a panacea of convenience for consumers. However, online retail therapy doesn’t come without risks, especially when considering the countless ways cybercriminals scam consumers and trick them into sharing private information to steal their identities or commit fraud.

To avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, consumers should remember the following tips when shopping online.

Look for the “s” in the website’s URL.  Before sharing any information about your identity or financial accounts, ensure that the web address contains an “s” for security. Any websites that do not begin with the letters “https” is not safe.

Avoid Public Wi-Fi Hotspots. While public wi-fi networks enable us to stay connected and productive 24/7, the fact is that many of these hot spots are not secure. Criminals can easily snoop on users’ activities and gain access to passwords, home addresses and credit card information. Wait until you are at home or have access to a secure connection before paying bills or making purchases online.

Know Your Retailers. There is a proliferation of e-tailers that claim to offer consumers the best products at the best prices. However, many of these websites are scams. Before purchasing any product online, be sure you know the retailer and have a good understanding of its track record in providing customer service.

Avoid Phishing Emails. Avoid opening attachments or clicking on links contained in emails from sources that are unknown to you. When you receive a “special offer” from a retailer you frequent, open a web browser and type in the URL rather than opening the website from the email. In addition, be on alert for emails that ask you to update your account information and appear threatening. These are often scams.

Set up Transaction Alerts with your Credit Card. Most credit card companies allow their customers to sign up to receive transaction alerts via email or text message whenever a charge is processed online or when there is unusual activity that may point to fraud. This simple step can go a long way toward preventing fraudulent charges.

Keep a Close Eye on Financial Accounts. Be diligent reviewing your monthly bank and credit card statements. If you see anything suspicious, such as an unauthorized charge or withdrawal, immediately notify the financial institution.

About the author: Joseph L. Saka, CPA/PFS, is co-CEO of Berkowitz Pollack Brant and co-director-in-charge of the firm’s Tax Services practices. He provides a full range of income and estate planning, tax consulting and compliance services, business advice, and financial planning services to entrepreneurs, high-net-worth families and family companies and business executives in the U.S. and abroad. He may be reached in the CPA firm’s Miami office at (305) 379-7000 or via e-mail at