Online Shopping Tips to Protect Your Personal Information

Follow these tips, adapted from tips provided by the Center for Internet Security, to protect your personal information when shopping online.

Secure Your Environment

  • Secure your mobile devices and computers. Updating/patching your software regularly, running anti-virus/anti-spyware software, and enabling your firewall are a few steps you can take. See Secure Your Devices, including Secure Your Internet of Things Devices.
  • Do not use public computers or guest wireless for your online shopping. Public computers may contain malicious software and public networks can allow criminals to intercept your financial traffic. See Use a Secure Internet Connection.
  • Use strong passwords. Use a unique password for every unique site. Do not use your UMICH password for non-university websites. For tips on choosing strong passwords, see Choosing and Changing a Safe and Secure UMICH Password.
  • Choose privacy. Review privacy settings for your devices and applications and choose settings you are comfortable with. Learn more at Privacy.

Know Who You're Dealing With

  • Know your online shopping merchants. Limit your online shopping to merchants you know and trust. If you question a merchant, check with the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Look for "https" in the URL/web address when making an online purchase. The "s" in "https" indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted.
  • Review privacy policies. Review the privacy policy for the website/merchant you are visiting. Know what information the merchant is collecting about you, how it will be stored, how it will be used, and if it will be shared with others.

Avoid the Traps

  • Don't use debit cards online. Debit cards do not have the same consumer protections as credit cards, which are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act and may limit your liability if your information is used improperly.
  • Do not click links or open attachments in emails, even from trusted companies.These messages could be fraudulent, sending you to websites that steal your password or install malware. Instead, contact the company or organization directly.
  • Do not respond to pop-ups. When a window pops up promising you cash or gift cards for answering a question or taking a survey, close it:
    • Windows: Press Control and F4
    • Mac: Press Command and W
  • Do not auto-save your personal information. This information can be stolen from your browser, turning the convenience of autofill into the nightmare of identity theft.
  • Use common sense to avoid scams. Never give your financial information or personal information via email or text. Information about many current scams can be found at the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.