Carnegie Mellon University

Review our key tips for staying safe when shopping online.

November 22, 2021

Shop Safely Online

Online shopping has been growing in popularity for many years, and with amazing deals available it's more attractive than ever before.

While shopping online is convenient, it could leave you vulnerable to online fraud. Scammers are constantly trying to trick buyers into paying for items they never receive or trying to obtain their personal information for financial gain. If you’re buying gifts online this year, follow our tips to avoid fraud and shop safely.

  • Update your operating system and apps. Many software companies and app developers regularly push updates that ensure you have the highest level of security available. Secure your computer and mobile devices by installing the latest operating system and anti-virus software.
  • Protect your personal data, especially credit card and banking information. Never send your credit card or banking information in an email. If you enter personal or financial information online, confirm that the website URL begins with https and matches the address you're expecting. This indicates that the site should be secure. And, don't forget, never provide your Social Security number when shopping online.
  • Buy only from trusted sellers and vendors. Be especially cautious of third parties selling through reputable websites, including social media sites like Instagram or Facebook.
  • Never give personal information over the phone to someone who has called you. Ask for the person's name and company, then call back at the company's published phone number.
  • Create a strong password — and a different one for every online account. Never use your Andrew password with a non-Carnegie Mellon University account. If possible, use two-factor authentication (2fa) to log in to your online accounts. If you don’t want to be bothered remembering your passwords, use a password manager.
  • Think before you click! Use caution before clicking on a pop-up. It could be malware in disguise. And carefully inspect emails - they could be phish.
  • Shop with a credit card, if feasible. If compromised, a credit card gives you more protection and leaves you less vulnerable than a debit or prepaid card. This is because when a fraudulent charge is made with your debit card, the money is taken from your bank account quickly, but with a credit card, your bank account isn’t touched – you can report the purchase as fraud and get a credit on your statement without affecting your money. 
  • Sign up for account alerts. With both credit and debit cards, you can increase protection by signing up for account alerts that notify you when someone makes a large purchase with your card. 
  • Monitor your bank and credit card statements regularly so you can catch fraudulent charges quickly.

Visit the Federal Trade Commission website for more information about how you can protect yourself online and have a safe shopping experience.