More and more people are doing some or all of their holiday shopping online. It can be exciting to see all the online bargains that are out there. Shopping on the Internet can be safe if you follow the online safety tips below:
1. Make sure your security software, which includes anti-virus protection, is up to date. Not having up-to-date security makes you an easy target for viruses and other unwanted intrusions.
2. Only shop at a secure site. A secure site has “https” at the beginning of its website address. This means that the site is secure and that it encrypts the information that it sends.
3. Don’t use a public wireless network. In the event there is a keystroke logger on that public computer you are using or sniffer intercepting data over a public Wi-Fi network, you do not want to put information out there that can compromise your personal information. See my post on computer safety in public.
4. Use credit cards instead of debit cards. Credit cards offer a much better level of protection when compared to debit cards. Further, a debit card may put a freeze on your bank account that is in excess of the amount you are purchasing.
5. Always monitor your account statements to ascertain that there are no unauthorized charges to your account. An aside here is to never give out personal information should you receive a phone call, email or letter mentioning that there is an issue with your account. Hang up (if it is a phone call) and call the number on the back of your credit card. The person calling could be trying to get personal information from you in order to steal your identity.
6. As more and more purchases are being made from mobile devices, password protect your smartphone and/or tablet. Should it fall into the wrong hands, personal information is much more difficult to get.
7. Don’t let browsers store passwords for you. Further, you should have a different password for every account you use and the passwords should be difficult to crack. See my post on creating strong passwords.
8. Don’t use public computers. They are only as safe as the security the computer is using. Again see my post on computer safety in public. If you decide to use a public terminal, be sure that you log out after using it.
9. Phishing scams are more common at holiday time. If you receive an email saying that personal information is needed (passwords, social security numbers, birthdate, etc.) do not give this information out. Someone may be trying to steal your identity.
10. Many credit cards offer a temporary credit card that allows you to set an amount and timeframe for using it. Think about using one from your credit card provider if they offer it.
11. Don’t click on links in emails as they may not take you to the site you think you are being taken to. Many phishing scams involve emails from what seem like legitimate sites such as banks or online stores, but actually send you to a phony site where they can gather your information to steal your identity.
12. When you go to a restaurant, do you pay by credit card? If so, that card goes through your waiter, cashier and, possibly, various others. There are a few chances to get the information needed to charge purchases to the card.
One last thing. Trust your gut feeling. If something appears shady during any part of the purchase process, it very well may be. My advice is not to complete the transaction. Leave the site.
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Here’s to wishing all of you a very happy holiday season.