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11 Tips for Safer Online Holiday Shopping

Don’t let fake companies and cyber criminals dampen your holiday spirit. Before you click the ‘Buy’ button this holiday season, check out these tips to help you enjoy safer online shopping.

1. Shop at websites you trust

Shop online only with retailers you trust and have shopped with before.

2. Check out website security

That small lock icon in the corner of your URL field tells you that the web page you’re on has privacy protection installed. The URL will start with “https.” These websites mask and transfer data you share, typically on pages that ask for passwords or financial information. If you don’t see that lock or the “s” after “http,” then the webpage isn’t secure. There is no privacy protection attached to these pages, so we suggest you exercise caution before providing your credit card information over these sites.

3. Check out the business

If you decide to shop with a new online business, check to see the company’s social media accounts. What do its customer reviews say? Also, does it have a history of scam reports or complaints at the Better Business Bureau? Take it one step further by contacting the business. If there’s no e-mail address, phone number or address for a brick-and-mortar location that could be a signal that it’s a fake company.

4. Beware rock-bottom prices

If a website offers something that looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Compare prices and pictures of the merchandise at similar websites. Rock-bottom prices could be a red flag that the business doesn’t have those items in stock. The website may exist only to get your personal information.

5. Be careful with public Wi-Fi

Along with the holiday hustle and bustle comes the temptation to shop online while you’re out and about. Keep in mind that Wi-Fi networks use public airwaves. With a little tech know-how and the freely available Wi-Fi password at your favorite cafe, someone can intercept what you’re looking at on the web. Shopping online usually means giving out information that an identity thief would love to grab, including your name and credit card information.

6. Use a VPN like Norton™ Secure VPN

Still can’t resist the lure of shopping online while you’re out and about? If you must shop online on public Wi-Fi, consider installing and using a VPN—short for “virtual private network”— like Norton Secure VPN on all mobile devices and computers before connecting to any Wi-Fi network. A VPN creates an encrypted connection between your smartphones and computers and the VPN server. Think of it as a secure tunnel your Internet traffic travels through while you browse the web, helping make your data safe from interception by nearby hackers.

7. Create strong passwords

If someone has the password to your account, they could log in, change the shipping address and order things while you get stuck with the bill. Help keep your account safe by locking it with a strong password—“Santa123” won’t do. Here are some tips on how:

  • Use a complex set of lowercase and uppercase numbers, letters and symbols.
  • Don’t use personal information that others can find or guess, such as birthdates, your kids’ names or your favorite color.
  • Don’t use the same password—however strong—on multiple accounts. A data breach at one company could give criminals access to your other, shared-password accounts.

8. Watch out for e-mail scams

Sometimes something in your e-mail inbox can stir your holiday consumer cravings. For instance, it might be tempting to open an e-mail that promises a “special offer.” But that offer could be special in a bad way. Clicking on e-mails or their attachments from unknown senders and unrecognizable sellers could infect

your computer with viruses and malware. It’s better to play it safe. Delete them, don’t click on any links and don’t open any attachments from individuals or businesses you are unfamiliar with.

9. Pay with a credit card

You’ll usually get the best liability protection—online and offline—when you use a credit card. Here’s why.

If someone racks up unauthorized charges on your credit card, federal regulations say you won’t have to pay while the card company investigates. Keep in mind, your liability for unauthorized charges on your debit card is capped at $50, if you report it within two business days. But if someone uses your account and you don't report the theft, after 60 days you may not be reimbursed at all.

10. Check your statements

Robust holiday shopping can add pages to your credit card statements. Check your statements for fraudulent charges at least once a week, or set up account alerts. When you receive a text or e-mail about a charge, you can check the message and likely easily recall whether you made the charge.

11. Mind the details

The holiday season is a busy time, but it’s smart to stay organized. After you make the purchase, keep the receipt, order confirmation number and postal tracking number in a safe place. If you have a problem with the order, this information will help the merchant resolve the problem.

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