TSTC Cybersecurity Program: Use Different Passwords for Online Shopping

(HUTTO, Texas) – As Central Texans adapt to an uncertain future of self-isolation and businesses temporarily closing, online shopping is becoming the way for consumers to acquire what they want.

“That is where everybody is headed, especially with the coronavirus,” said Joshua Schier, a Cybersecurity instructor at Texas State Technical College’s Williamson County campus. “It is the way for us to have less contact. It is a simple convenience. Anyone who uses Amazon realizes how nice it is.”

People who are new to online shopping could be prime targets for scammers.

“These scammers capitalize on every opportunity like this anytime there is panic and fear and people are vulnerable,” Schier said.

He said consumers should diversify the passwords they use for online accounts.

“To do that, people are using a password manager to hold and store them,” he said.

Schier cautioned against shopping through mobile and social media apps because of security risks.

The Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration recently sent warning letters to seven companies selling essential oils, teas and other products claiming to prevent or treat COVID-19, according to a blog recently written by Colleen Tressler, an FTC agency consumer education specialist.

“Both agencies will continue to monitor social media, online marketplaces and incoming complaints to help ensure that the companies do not continue to market fraudulent products under a different name or on another website,” Tressler wrote.

In 2018, the Better Business Bureau received more than 28,000 complaints and at least 10,000 scam reports nationwide related to online shopping.

Emily Gaines, a public relations coordinator for the Better Business Bureau in Austin, said scammers are using health as a way to get to consumers.

“Medical face masks can be counterfeited and sold at a lesser quality than advertised, making them less safe than the consumer would hope,” Gaines said. “Scammers may advertise fake cures or preventions for sale, and there are currently no FDA-approved vaccines, drugs or preventions available to purchase online.”

The bureau recommends consumers do online research before making purchases. The agency advises to research sellers, use a credit card for secure online payments, take time to think about purchases and keep documentation of all orders.  And, consumers should not do online shopping using Wi-Fi hotspots because of security concerns.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.