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Stay safe shopping online

Online shopping continues to grow, now representing more than half of all purchases during the holidays.

Unfortunately, hackers are taking advantage of this trend and victimizing shoppers.

Being aware of the risks and knowing how to take appropriate action is important. One wrong click while shopping online this holiday season could make you vulnerable to hackers wanting to steal your identity and access your financial accounts. They could even encrypt all the information on your hard drive and demand a ransom to get it back.

The bad guys who want to steal your information are constantly getting better at what they do. It’s no longer sufficient to install anti-virus software on your computer and call it good.

Here are six ways to help protect yourself while shopping online during the holidays:

  • Use one credit card for all online purchases: Credit cards are safer than debit cards for online purchases. The Fair Credit Billing Act protects credit card use, and using one card limits the potential for financial fraud to affect all of your accounts. Even so, check your statements regularly.
  • Don’t use the same login and password for all your accounts. Make sure the passwords you do use contain several words or a long phrase.
  • Add a layer of security by requiring another form of identification — in addition to a login and password — to gain access to your accounts. Many companies, like Google for example, allow a “two-step” authentication that involves sending a code to your phone by text in order to login.
  • Don’t trust your email. Seriously. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish phishing attempts by hackers from legitimate messages. (Including those sent through social media) If a message contains a link to a webpage offering a great deal, do not click the link. Go to the company webpage directly. Also, never open attachments, unless you are expecting it and know the sender.
  • Do not use public computers or public wireless internet access for your online shopping. Public computers and wireless networks can contain viruses and other malware that steal your information, which can lead to identity theft and financial fraud. If you do need to use your computer while traveling, using your smartphone as an internet hot spot provides a more secure connection.