By Craig Monger

Online shopping is the way of the modern world, but with it comes unique challenges in protecting your identity and privacy.

With Cyber Monday making its arrival, it's always a good idea to refresh yourself on proper security measures to protect your personal information.

Protecting your privacy can seem like a daunting task. With growing technological progress, so comes the growing use of sneaky tactics used by cyber-criminals. Your online banking information can be stolen, along with various aspects of your identity. Unauthorized purchases can be made with your banking and debit/credit card information. Criminals can also use your personal information to open new credit accounts in your name. These acts can have short- to long-term effects on your credit score. 

Protect Yourself

Here are some easy steps that anyone can take to increase the security of their personal information while shopping online.

According to Neil J. Rubenking, a Lead Security Analyst for PC Magazine, although your personal banking information is kept online through various merchants, those merchants typically have very thorough cyber-security. The security provided by online merchants is only as strong as the passwords used to secure your personal information. Therefore, it is essential to use unique and unpredictable passwords to secure your data. Never use words or number sequences that can easily be attributed to you, such as birthdays, maiden names, or addresses.

"Hackers and thieves know that people are lazy, so when they get hold of a set of login credentials for one popular site, they quickly try them on others," Rubenking said. "You can minimize the collateral damage by using a different strong password for every secure site. Of course, you'll need a password manager to keep them straight."

Most phone and laptop software come with password managers, and you can also access others through apps and downloadable software. Do sufficient research before trusting an app or website with your passwords.

There are multiple methods criminals can use to steal personal information. 


A popular type of online scam is called phishing. Phishing involves using similar website domain names or having a URL embedded within a website that takes your browser to an unsecured site that can be used to collect personal information. The unsuspecting victim may believe they are accessing what they know to be a reputable site but are in reality accessing a scam–site. Scam–sites typically do not put as much development into their website design, so poor functionality and a shabby website design are tell-tale signs that you are accessing a scam–site.

If you suspect that you are accessing a scam–site, check your URL and verify the correct spelling of the domain name.

According to Rubenking, most reputable web browsers will have internal measures to inform users whether the website they are accessing is secure and trusted. Look for either a padlock symbol or a “https” next to the URL in your browser window. 

Too Good to be Trusted

Cyber Monday deals can bring welcome discounts for the upcoming Christmas season. However, if you spot a deal that seems too good to be true, you should immediately become suspicious.

According to Alison Johanson, a contributor with Norton's LifeLock security, a good rule of thumb before purchasing from an unfamiliar website, especially when it has suspiciously good deals, is to do additional site research to verify its validity. Just because something is advertised on social media does not mean that it’s safe.

“Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is," Johanson said. "The FBI found that many sites at the center of its recent spate of complaints were advertised on social media platforms."   

Extra Protection

Using a third-party payment system will add an additional layer of defense against scams and theft. Using a credit card is recommended for all online transactions. Most credit card companies provide additional cyber-security to protect your information, giving alerts and stopping transactions they suspect are coming through fraudulent means.

No one can do everything perfectly. Scammers and cyber-criminals can be remarkably resourceful, and sometimes they succeed in stealing personal information. However, taking the above steps can decrease the likelihood of becoming a victim of theft or fraud.