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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

5 Tips for Safer Online Holiday Shopping

More and more people are doing their holiday shopping online.  It’s easy to see why: You can shop whenever you want, take advantage of special free shipping or Web-only deals, and comparison shop - all from the comfort of your home.

Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people who would like to take advantage of all this online purchasing activity.  The Norton Cybercrime Report 2011 cites that 41% of adults surveyed do not have up-to-date security software to protect their personal information online.

We want to make sure your online shopping this holiday season is fun, efficient, and, most important, safe. These five safety tips will help protect yourself, your friends and your family this holiday season.

Protect your computer.  Most malicious software or security breaches can be prevented by running a reputable and up-to-date antivirus package on your computer.  Set your antivirus software to auto-update so that you don’t have to worry about it in the future; you’ll always be protected.  If you don’t have antivirus software on your computer, we’ve listed a few software packages below.

Avoid email scams. During the holiday season we often seen an increased number of scams aimed at defrauding consumers. There is a large number of suspect offers out there, but there is also an equal number of valid offers, so it’s important to know how to tell the valid offers from the scams.
  • Avoid clickable links at all costs. We strongly recommend that you type the destination URL into your browser instead of simply clicking a link in an email.  In many of the fraudulent emails received by consumers, the link itself goes to a location other than what the link says.
  • Avoid falling into the trap of the “hurry” or “70% off” emails.  Fraudsters try to get you to act impulsively by offering huge savings and limited offers, enticing you to click quickly rather than calmly thinking it through.
  • Frequently, fraudulent emails contain grammatical errors or ask for personal information.  Reputable offers are reviewed to ensure proper grammar, and unless you are purchasing something at that moment, there’s no reason to provide credit card information.
  • Check the sender’s address.  If the email address doesn’t make sense in relation to the ad itself, be wary.
Use reputable online shopping sites. With the plethora of shopping sites online, it can be confusing to know which one is good or bad.  By accessing known and reputable retailers, such as Amazon, you can find a majority of your purchases without having to place yourself at risk.  There are also some key things to look for when visiting that website.

  • When sending credit card information, make sure you're in an encrypted session, when websites create an additional layer of security while transmitting your personal information.  Look for the “HTTPS://” in the URL of your browser.  This means it’s an encrypted session.
  • Check the validity of the site.  For IE, select “View” and then “Security Report.”  For Firefox, select “Tools” and then “Page Info.” then in the dialogue  box, select “Security.” In both browsers, make the site is what you assume it to be.

Use a safe form of payment. When we pay for things online we need to make sure that we are protecting ourselves accordingly.  Avoid sending cash or personal checks.  Using credit cards can provide some protection against fraud, and you can dispute a charge.  Use payment services as much as you can.  Services such as PayPal and Amazon Payments act as middlemen and prevent the sending of your credit card to potentially fraudulent retailers.

Check your bank statements. During the holiday season, we recommend that you frequently monitor your credit card, debit card, or checking account statements online to ensure unnecessary fees are not being added without your knowledge and to catch fraudulent activity quickly. 

[Source: YahooSafely]
For more information about protecting your Internet security, please visit

*This article was written by Yahoo! Inc. Chief Information Security Officer Justin Somaini as a guest contributor to Yahoo! Safely.

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