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10 Tips for Safe Online Shopping This Holiday Season

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‘Tis the season for Internet scams! Below are 10 things to keep in mind as you hunt for those online deals this holiday season.

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  1. Ignore suspicious offers via email: Three out of four spam attachments are malicious in nature. The keyword here is ignore, because opening one of these emails can be just as bad as clicking an embedded link or downloading an attachment. If the subject line looks fishy or the sender is unknown, just delete it.
  2. Never give financial information over email: The Better Business Bureau warns that legitimate businesses don’t send emails asking for follow-up financial information. If an email, even one that claims to be from a familiar retailer, asks you to visit an outside site, don’t do it — it could be redirecting you to a scam site.
  3. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: Stay far away from online advertisements and social media offers that scream unbelievable promos and discounts. These links can lead to sites that install viruses or steal your information during the checkout process.
  4. Double check payment site URLs: Scam artists and hackers can trick users into giving out personal information on fake transaction pages. When you’re on a page that asks for your credit card or any kind of personal information, look at the URL, and if you don’t see HTTPS at the beginning you can be sure that it isn’t safe to continue. Be careful, two of the most commonly phished sites are eBay and PayPal.
  5. Bookmark reliable online shopping sites: Relying on search engine results can lead you to malicious sites. Instead, bookmark the sites that you know are safe. Well-known companies and online marketplaces like Amazon are great examples of safe sites to do your online shopping.
  6. After you have made your purchase, check your billing statements to monitor transactions: Sometimes looking at your bank statement can reveal a lot about where your money is going when you pay online. If things aren’t adding up, be sure to immediately report any discrepancy to your bank.
  7. Don’t shop online via a public Wi-Fi connection: It doesn’t matter if you’re shopping through your smartphone or laptop, you’re always taking a huge privacy risk when you process transactions on a public Wi-Fi connection. The person at the next table could be electronically eavesdropping to pick up your credit card numbers, passwords and other information.
  8. Beware of malware disguised as a mobile shopping app. The Apple App Store is much more controlled, but the Google Play Store is far from 100% safe. There are people out there that create malicious apps that steal data from your device, change your settings, track what you do on your device, and more. Last year, researchers from two universities studied 13,500 apps from the Google Play Store and found that 8 percent of them contained encryption technology that was vulnerable to “Man in the Middle” (MITM) attacks – where the programmer intercepts data as it travels between the user and its intended target. You can protect yourself from these apps by closely examining the name of the app’s developer, reviews and star ratings and only download it if everything looks safe and trustworthy. If your phone starts “acting” abnormally, sending unusual SMSs or registering strange network activity, it could be infected with a virus or other malware.
  9. Protect your credit line from scam artists: When shopping online, it’s a good idea to use a credit card with a low limit, that way if your credit card information is stolen, there’s only so much damage the scammer can do.
  10. Never, ever give your Social Security number to anyone online. There’s absolutely no reason why a website operator would need your social security number to process a transaction or mail your order. So, if a site asks for it during the checkout process, it’s probably a scam.

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