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7 Tips To Help You Stay Safe Online Shopping

With a just a few clicks of the mouse, online shopping has never been easier. Of course, to do so, you’ll need to be willing to provide some of sensitive personal information (Target, anyone?). But hey, what could possibly go wrong?

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1. Be careful what information you give out

In order for a purchase to go through, the site in question is probably going to need your credit card number (unless you use PayPal, which is also a great way to go). This is perfectly normal, and shouldn't raise any warning flags. However, there's really no reason for a site to request your other information. Be wary of sites that request more information, even in the form of setting up a "membership account." Be especially careful to never give your social security number to anyone online. The less personal information you give out, the safer you'll be.

2. Keep your antivirus software up to date

Anytime you use the internet, you should be sure that you're doing so from a sufficiently protected computer. Up-to-date antivirus software can help keep your personal information from being hacked, which is especially important if you've been keeping such information on your computer for the sake of future online shopping. If you don't already have a trusted antivirus, purchase one today, and always keep it up to date. For added protection such as URL filtering, Web content filtering, bandwidth management, and application control, consider investing in a secure web gateway.

3. Use a credit card instead of a debit card

Credit cards are better to use for online shopping than debit cards. Why? Because, should the site you're visiting end up stealing your card number, you'll have an easier time getting your money back. Many credit card companies will actually reimburse card holders in the event of a theft. With debit cards, things will probably be much more difficult.

4. Do some research on their site

Before you drop that item into your cart or use your social media profile to proceed to checkout, you should do a little research. Check for online reviews of the site, and see if other users have experienced any problems in connection to it. Check out the site itself. Does the site have Secure Socket Layers (SSL)? If so, the URL for the site will begin with an "HTTPS" instead of the common "HTTP," and should feature an icon of a padlock. SSL encryption provides extra security, and is an absolute must for sites if they request your credit card number.

5. Stay in the loop

Once you've made a purchase, you should make a point to follow up on it. After the purchase has gone through, go to your bank's online site and and check your credit card statements to verify your purchases. Do so regularly, so that if your credit card number becomes compromised, you'll catch any unauthorized spending before it really gets out of hand.

6. Never use public computers or WIFI networks

In order to speed up your internet experience, computers tend to keep a record of information that is entered into them, including browser and purchase information. This means that once you are finished with your purchase, the next person to access the computer (and the next person after them, and so on) may be able to retrieve some of your personal information. Likewise, unsecure WiFi networks can be accessed by outside sources, and may allow hackers to pluck your information straight out of the ether.

7. Be smart

Does a deal seem to good to be true? Then it probably is. Does the site you're visiting appear unprofessional or spammy? Chances are that it's a fake. Listen to your common sense while shopping, and don't take any unnecessary risks. After all, holiday shopping should be a way to spread joy, and that's just not going to happen if someone uses your stolen information to turn you into a financial wreck.

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