Shopping for Cyber Monday bargains online is easy, convenient and potentially dangerous. Identity thieves, scams and hackers may be lurking behind certain links, but a wise and wary consumer can protect against such hazards.
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Here are 12 tips to help you stay safe and secure when shopping online on the Monday after Thanksgiving, the biggest online shopping day of the year.
Keep it Secret
Do not give out any financial information to an online retailer. Keep PINs, passwords, Social Security numbers and other financial information secret. Retailers do not need that information.
Check Out the Seller
Make sure that the online retailer, you intend to deal with, has a good reputation. See if the Better Business Bureau (BBB) has any complaints registered against the retailer. (For additional reading, check out: The Better Business Bureau's Tool Belt For Saving Cash.)
Look for These Icons
An icon on a retailer's website showing an unbroken padlock or key indicates a firewall protection, and encryption software. If you see these icons, the site is likely secure, and your personal and credit card information should be safe.
Keep Your PIN Number Strictly Private
Your family, friends and colleagues do not need to know that number. When entering your PIN number for a computer transaction, conceal it from the people – if any who may be standing behind you.
Make Sure You've Got Protective Software
Make sure you've got a reliable firewall, anti-virus or anti-phishing software installed in your computer. These relatively inexpensive security programs protect against a variety of online hazards.
If In Doubt, Don't Shop on a Suspicious Site
Many scammers have gone to great lengths to create fancy, colorful websites that seem reputable, but are really engineered to get your personal information and use it illegally.
If They Ask, Don't Tell
No legitimate retailer needs to know your social security number. If you're required to enter your social security number, to complete a purchase transaction, odds are you're being scammed. Don't give out your number, and report the site to your BBB, and to the Attorney General's office of your state, or to the Consumer Fraud Division, if there is one in your state.
Look for the SSL Logo
When encountering unfamiliar retailers, or websites, search for the SSL logo on the bottom of the page. The SSL logo represents a standard security technology, which protects transactions and customer data via an encrypted link connecting a web server and a browser. The SSL certificate is required before establishing.
Old Advice, but Good Advice
If an online deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Exceptionally good discounts and bargains are often advertised by scammers as a means of getting credit card information. So, while an advertised bargain seems irresistible, there may be a much bigger price to eventually pay in credit card fraud.
Keep a Watchful Eye on Your Credit Card Statements
When your bank statements and credit card bills come in, check them carefully to make sure you've made all the purchases and transactions listed. Notify your bank or credit card issuer immediately if you notice indications of fraud.
Be Careful on Your Smart Phone
Online shopping by using a smart phone, or cell phone, can also be dangerous. Don't repeat your PIN number, social security number or credit card number over your cell phone. Your call can be easily intercepted and your information stolen.
Change Your Password Regularly
Create a different set of logins and passwords periodically, weekly or monthly. That way, if your login or password is stolen, you'll soon have a new one in place.
The Bottom Line
Millions of consumers will be shopping online on Cyber Monday, and most of them will have no security problems. Still, dangers exists and careless consumers risk being scammed. For the well-informed and security-conscious consumer, however, scams, security threats and the potential for identity theft and credit card fraud can be avoided. (For additional reading, check out: 7 Tips To Avoid Online Scams and Swindles.)