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10 Safety Tips While Online Shopping This Christmas

Online shopping is easy, hassle free and convenient. It is estimated that millions of dollars will change hands electronically over the season. This makes it attractive for would be scammers to target. The following 10 tips will help to keep you safe while shopping for your Christmas gifts this season:

  • Use Trusted Brand Names and Familiar Websites: Start at a trusted site rather than using a search engine. Search results can be rigged. If you know the site, chances are it is less likely to be a scam.

  • Look for the Lock: Never buy anything online using your credit card from a site that does not have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed. The URL for the site will start with HTTPS://(instead of just HTTP://). A locked padlock icon will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar depending on your browser. And remember, do not ever give anyone your credit card over email. Ever.

  • Keep an eye on your bank account: Periodically review your bank account and check up on any suspicious activity. Destroy and delete any bank statements you have read. Notify your credit card issuer of any address change.

  • Don’t give websites more private information than they need: You only need to provide two types of information: payment information, such as credit cards data, and shipping location, which is usually your home or work address. Be suspicious of online merchants who ask for information such as: date of birth or any other similar information. They do not need it.

  • Use a credit card and secure payment services, not a debit card: Credit cards have extra-legal protection built in that make them safer to use compared to debit cards. For example, with credit cards you are not liable if someone makes fraudulent credit card transactions, as long as you report the fraud in a timely manner. Secondly, credit cards give you leverage when disputing transactions with a seller. If you pay with a debit card, you cannot get your money back unless the seller agrees to it. With credit cards, the money you paid is not a done deed until due process is completed. Likewise, using secure online payment services, for example by PayPal, are advisable. The advantage is they act as a middle man, whereby you deliver payment to them – i.e. PayPal – and they then pass this onto the retailer. Your bank details therefore always remain private.

  • Update your browser, antivirus and operating system: It sounds painful to do, but it will go a long way in helping to secure your cookies and cache, while preventing data leakage. Online shoppers are especially vulnerable due to the sensitive data they are using.

  • If it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is: We have all come across a legitimately unbelievable offer and jumped on it with enthusiasm, glad to have been given the opportunity to buy something at a fraction of the cost. But that is rare. When in doubt, walk away.

  • Use your mobile phone network over public Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi is something consumers nowadays naturally expect. Whether it is in a shop, a café or a restaurant, being able to access the internet with little or no cost is music to our ears. However, when it comes to shopping online, all that convenience comes with many risks. Many hotspots are actually quite unsafe and very easy to attack. Rule of thumb, when shopping online, use data provided by your network provider.

  • Think Mobile: Most people use their mobile devices these days to do comparison shopping before making a purchase. This allows them to use apps provided directly by the retailers, like Amazon etc. You can also use the apps to make the purchase directly, without going to the store or the website.

  • Use Strong Passwords: Using uncrackable passwords is never more important than when banking and shopping online. This is critical to remember during this time of year when shopping around will probably mean creating new accounts on various e-commerce sites.

Online shopping does not have to be a scary experience. Use these tips and tricks to keep your credit card and your identity safe.

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