In today's modern age, you will be hard-pressed to find a consumer that hasn't purchased something on the Internet in the past year. The Internet gives users access to the world with just a few clicks of the mouse. Whether you use the Internet for business transactions, connecting with friends and colleagues, doing research or otherwise, it is hard to deny the convenience factor. When it comes to shopping online, it is vital that consumers remain vigilant in protecting their private information against potential financial risks. Here is a look at five ways to shop safely online, while protecting your data from Internet predators.

Shop on Secure Sites
The top way to protect your security online is to be cautious of the sites you visit. Many web browsers will alert you if you are traveling to a website that is not secure. Additionally, if you think that the website seems fishy or suspicious, it is advisable to refrain from completing any transactions. When it comes to shopping online, you have to be careful of the sites you surf, as there are predators looking to obtain your personal and financial information.

Use Third-Party Payment Options
If you are uncomfortable with using credit cards online, another feasible option is to use a third-party payment option such as PayPal. PayPal stores your credit card information so that you do not have to give out your digits to numerous vendors. The transaction will list PayPal as your payment method, and it leaves your credit card information off of the invoice.

Be Cautious of Emails
Another aspect of online use that consumers need to exert care with is emails. Many consumers receive dozens of spam emails every day. Some of these emails look quite convincing, appearing to be an official email from an online retailer. In reality, it is a scam to obtain your personal and financial information. Rather than clicking on a link, always type the store's website in your browser. This will make you less prone to phishing scams, and you keep your information safe. Even if you are opening up an email advertising a big sale at a store you frequently shop at, it is much safer to type in the store's website address yourself.

Practice Extreme Caution on Online Bidding Sites
Another sector of the Internet where you will need to exert caution is on online bidding sites such as eBay or Craigslist. While these highly popular sites offer goods at discounted prices, they are prone to scammers. Don't agree to any transactions with anyone offering wire transfers, check by mail, or payment upon delivery. EBay posts buyer and seller satisfaction rates based off of reviews given by other eBay consumers who have interacted with one another.

Invest in Premium Internet Protection Software
One of the most effective ways of protecting your information from online predators is to invest in premium Internet protection software. Software that protects from spyware, adware, viruses, trojans and more is highly recommended.

The Bottom Line
Shopping online can be a highly convenient and attractive alternative to going to the mall or shopping center. While there are risks involved, they can easily be countered with a little preparation. There are plenty of ways to protect your private information and financial data from online predators, and the suggestions mentioned above are a good place to start. Other good tips include protecting your passwords, steering clear of flashy or unbelievable sales and staying up to date on the latest Internet scams. Rather than leaving your personal information and financial integrity unprotected, be pro-active and vigilant in keeping your private information safe from outsiders.