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5 Tips for Safe Online Holiday Shopping

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5 Tips for Safe Online Holiday Shopping

If the record-breaking Cyber Monday sales of $7.9 billion are any indication, online shopping is more popular than ever. Chances are you’re one of the millions of consumers who plan to order a few holiday items from the comfort of your home instead of braving the malls. If that’s the case, it’s important to know how to keep your personal information safe online.

Here are five tips for safe online shopping:

  • Strong passwords
    Strong passwords are the first line of defense against hackers. They should include at least six characters that are a combination of letters, numbers and punctuation marks. Avoid using your address, birth date, phone number or pet’s name. And don’t use the same password for every site—if a hacker cracks your password, then he has access to every account you created.

  • Secure sites
    Before you make your purchase, look for “https” or a padlock symbol in the address bar of your browser. Those are indicators that the website uses technology that encrypts your data. Go directly to a retailer’s site instead of clicking a link you found during a search or in an email. Data thieves have been known to create sites that mimic legitimate online stores and use them to grab information.

  • Shop at home
    Never make purchases online using a public Wi-Fi connection. Hackers can tap into these unsecure connections and capture your personal information. Likewise, don’t use a public computer to shop or check accounts online.

  • Use credit or prepaid cards
    While it’s certainly possible to use debit cards online, you must report any abuse right away or you may be liable for fraudulent charges. Monitor your credit card statement for any questionable activity. If you’re concerned about entering your credit card number on websites, one option is to purchase a prepaid card that you use for online purchases. Don’t wire money to pay for an item. If you purchase an item from an online auction site by wiring your payment, there’s no way to get the money back if the item never arrives.

  • Beware phishing attempts
    If you receive an email that appears to be from a store you’re familiar with or your bank or credit card company, be careful about clicking on any links it contains. Bank and credit card companies never send emails asking for updates on account or personal information. In addition, some online retailers offer shoppers the option of chatting “live” with a customer service representative, but that pop-up window could be a hacker. Never place an order or enter an account number or other personal details in a live chat.

If you take these precautions, online shopping can be as safe as it is convenient. Happy holidays!

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