Online Shopping Safety

When you're shopping online this holiday season, be sure to understand the security risks and protect yourself with these online shopping tips and Internet safety precautions.

Woman shopping online for Christmas gifts

Install the latest security updates

Before you begin shopping online, check that your computer is running the latest version of your anti-virus/anti-spyware software. Set the programs to update automatically so that you don't have to remember to update manually. Consider installing a firewall, too.

Update your web browser

Your security software isn't the only thing that needs periodic updates; keep your browser up to date with the latest versions and security patches. Check out your browser's security settings and apply the highest level of security available.

Secure your shopping transactions

Shop from only well-known online retailers you trust. Before you enter any of your confidential information, look for the "lock" icon in your browser's status bar, and use "https" rather than just "http" in the website address bar for the most security. Also, check out the privacy policy of each website you use so you know what information that merchant is collecting about you and how it will be used.

Skip public computers

The computer at the library is fine for browsing, but don't do your online holiday shopping there. Public computers can contain malicious software that can steal your confidential and credit card information; criminals also can access public wireless Internet to steal credit card numbers and other details.

Create strong passwords

Don't use the same password for all your online accounts. Also, make the passwords difficult to guess by using a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, along with numbers and special characters.

Pay by credit card

Credit card transactions are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act, while debit card transactions are not. Generally, credit card holders are liable only for up to $50 in unauthorized charges. On the flip side, an online criminal could empty your entire bank account if he has your debit card number. Just remember to pay your credit card bill off entirely each month, if you can. You shouldn't go into debt for the holidays.

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