Be Safe Shopping Online This Holiday Season

Before you click or tap to buy that "must have" item on your holiday list, make sure you're doing everything you can to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime:

1.  Secure mobile devices and computers. Keep the operating system and application software updated/patched on all of your computers and mobile devices. Also be sure to check that any antivirus/antispyware software installed is running and receiving automatic updates. Confirm that your firewall is enabled.

2.  Know and trust your online shopping merchants. Limit your online shopping to merchants you know and trust. If you have questions about a merchant, check with the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission.  Confirm the online seller's physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems.

3.  Look for "https" when making an online purchase. The "s" in "https" stands for "secure" and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted. If you submit your credit card information through an organization's website, be sure to look for indicators that the site is secure. Look for a padlock or key icon in the browser's status bar and be sure "https" appears in the website's address bar before making an online purchase. Also make sure that your browser software is current and up-to-date.

4.  Password protect your mobile device and computer.  It's the simplest and one of the most important steps to take to secure your mobile device and computer. If you need to create an account with the merchant, be sure to use a strong password. Use at least eight characters, with numbers, special characters, and upper and lowercase letters.    

5.  Do not respond to pop-ups. When a window pops up promising you cash or gift cards for answering a question or taking a survey, close it by pressing Control + F4 for Windows and Command + W for Macs.

6.  Avoid scams and fraud. Don't ever give your financial information or personal information over email or text. Be aware of unsolicited communications purporting to represent stores or charities. Always think before you click on emails you receive asking for donations and contact the organization directly to verify the request.

7.  Do not use public computers or public wireless for your online shopping. Public computers may contain malicious software that steals your credit card information when you place your order. Additionally, criminals may be intercepting traffic on public wireless networks to steal credit card numbers and other confidential information.

8.  Pay by credit card, not debit card. The safest way to shop on the Internet is to pay with a credit card rather than debit card, as credit cards are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act and may reduce your liability if your information was used improperly.

9.  Print your online transactions. Print or save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the seller. Carefully review your credit card statements as soon as you receive them to confirm that all charges are legitimate. Contact your credit card company immediately if you have unauthorized charges on your account.

10.  Review privacy policies. Review the privacy policy for the website/merchant you are visiting. Know what information the merchant is collecting about you, how it will be stored, how it will be used, and if it will be shared with others.

By Michelle M. Haas-Dosher

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