You may be just sitting on your couch in your PJs, but you're sending very sensitive information into the world. Use these tips to make sure it doesn't get into the wrong hands.
Stick with what you know
There are a million choices when it comes to online shops, but it's best not to venture into the unknown on the web. Start your shopping at a site you know. Use online sites for major retail stores like Target, Kohl's, Home Depot and more. You can also safely shop at online-only sites we all know, like Amazon and Overstock.
Before you make a purchase, search for reviews of the site from other shoppers. Find out if they felt safe once their transaction was complete, or if the process made them leery.
Look for certifications
Sites that have proven themselves to be trustworthy will be labeled with seals of approval from consumer protection groups. Look for logos from the Better Business Bureau and TRUSTe as a sign that you are shopping with a secure site.
Never enter personal information on a website that isn't secure. Look for a lock symbol to appear on the status bar of your web browser (this depends on which browser you use) and check that the URL of the site starts with https:// once you are on a checkout page.
Online payment services like PayPal and PaySimple store your information on their secure servers, so you never have to give your payment information to online retailers. They also watch your accounts closely for suspicious activity and cover the costs of fraudulent transactions.
If you're making a purchase from your mobile device, use the store's app instead of your device's browser. There aren't as many antiviral and antimalware protections in place on a phone, so using the app ensures you're dealing directly with the retailer.
Keep your computer safe
Never get online without making sure you have antivirus software installed and that it's up to date. Sometimes all it takes is one wrong click and a hacker or malware can have your computer (and any information on it) in its clutches.
You may think keeping you're being a good neighbor by keeping your Wi-Fi wide open, but you're really leaving yourself wide open for a hack. Only make purchases on a secure server, and be wary of hot spots you're not accustomed to. Using the network at your local coffee shop is fine, but verify the name of the network to make sure you're not connecting to someone else's cleverly named look-alike.
You know the rules when it comes to passwords, but we bet you're not following them all. Use strong passwords that are a combination of numbers, letters and symbols. Don't use the same password on several sites — if you do, you're giving a hacker access to not one but many of your accounts.
It's smart to give your bank statements a close look when they arrive once a month, but once a month alone won't cut it. Pull your accounts up at least once a week to check for suspicious charges. Check them more frequently if you've been doing a lot of online shopping.
Use credit over debit. Many credit cards offer fraud protection that some debit cards don't. Check with your bank to see what the best option is for you.
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