Safety Corner: Shop Safey Online This Holiday Season

Friday, December 9, 2011

Online shopping is easy, convenient, and can save you time and money, but identity theft or fraudulent charges can put a damper on an otherwise happy holiday.  Follow the below recommendations based on PCMag.com’s “11 Tips for Safe Online Shopping” to help protect yourself when making cyber purchases.

1.  Use Familiar Websites

Begin your shopping at a trusted retail site of your choice, rather than with a search engine.  Search results can be rigged to link to decoy sites.  In particular, beware of sites that have a misspelling or that use an alternate domain (for example, .net instead of .com).

2.  Look for the Lock

NEVER use your credit card to make a purchase from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption.  The payment pages of sites with SSL will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://).  You’ll also see an icon of a locked padlock, generally in the status bar at the bottom of your browser or in the address bar next to the URL.  NEVER provide your credit card information by email.

3.  Don’t Tell All

No online store needs your social security number or your birthday.  Don’t provide them.

4.  Check Statements

During the holiday season, check your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts online regularly, rather than waiting until the end of the month.  If you find any fraudulent charges, report them immediately.

5.  Inoculate Your PC

Protect yourself against malware by installing and regularly updating an anti-virus program.

6.  Use Strong Passwords

Be sure your existing passwords are unique and hard to crack and keep the same in mind when shopping and creating new online accounts.

7.  Think Mobile

Comparison shopping on mobile devices is becoming increasingly popular.  When doing so, be sure to use apps provided directly by the retailers (e.g. Amazon, Target, etc.) to find what you want and make the purchase.

8.  Avoid Public Terminals

Avoid public computers when shopping online, but if you insist on using one, be certain to log out when you’re finished.

9.  Privatize Your Wi-Fi

Only shop over a Wi-Fi connection if you’re accessing the Web over a virtual private network (VPN) connection.

10.  Count the Cards

Each year gift cards are the most requested holiday gift.  Buy them from the source retailer.  Scammers tend to auction them off on sites like eBay with little or no funds.

11.  Know What’s Too Good to Be True

Many scams attempt to offer you a free product with purchase – e.g. an iPad or another highly desirable item.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is and you should be wary.

In addition to the above, check out McAfee’s “Twelve Scams of Christmas” for information on specific online threats.

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