Shopping online doesn’t have to be a scary. You can shop online safely and securely. There are many safe sites out there, and many places you can shop on the Internet with out feeling worried about fraud or identity theft.

Unfortunately not all sites can be trusted, so how do you know if you are safe when you’re shopping online, or if you are at risk?

Here are some tips to make sure you are one step ahead of the criminals:

A Padlock for Your Browser

Before you make a purchase, look for a little padlock icon in your web browser, and make sure the padlock is in the locked position. This means that the site has a secure socket layer (SSL) of encryption to enhance security. One way to double check if the padlock is real or not is look at the URL, if it starts with HTTPS://, instead of HTTP://, this means it is a legitimate SSL site.

Shop Trusted Sites

When you surf the Internet for deals, you will come across many adverts tailored to your search engine inquires. If an advertisement sounds too good to be true (like an iPad for 72% off), then it probably is. These too-good-to-be-true ads are likely ploys used to get you to visit a shady third party site. The best practice is to shop on the official websites of major companies.

Use a Secure PC

Before you do anything else online, you first need to make sure your computer is secure. You should check your antivirus software, and make sure it’s is up-to-date. One trap used by cybercriminals is to plant a keylogging virus into your system that will keep track of every keystroke. When the keylogger detects anything that looks like sensitive data, it will automatically communicate your information in to the hands of the wrong people. Another important safeguard is to keep your browser and operating system current, be sure to check for updates regularly if you don’t have automatic updates turned on.

Credit Card, Not Debit

Credit cards give you the option to “charge back” fraudulent transactions to your account if they are caught within an agreed period of time, be sure to frequently check your statements to catch any unusual looking transactions. Debit cards do not have this “charge back” feature, if money is stolen from your debit account, then it is gone for good.

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