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Shopping Online Securely

laptop with shopping cart motif‘Tis the Season to Be Cautious! The holiday season is close and many of us will shop online in search of a great deal and to avoid long lines and impatient crowds. Unfortunately, this is also a criminal’s favorite time of the year to commit online or financial fraud. Please be cautious this time of year when making online purchases and be especially suspicious of those “coupons” and “gift cards” you receive in email.

A Few Tips

  • Secure your mobile device and computer. Be sure to keep the operating system and application software updated/patched on all of your computers and mobile devices. Be sure to check that your anti-virus/anti-spyware software is running and receiving automatic updates. Confirm that your firewall is enabled.
  • Beware of SPAM. This time of year shoppers get peppered with emails that appear to be confirmations of purchases from big U.S. retailers or with special email coupons and gift cards, but are really a scam. If you click on the link that purports to get you a status update on your order, you'll end up on an overseas website where malware will be downloaded to your computer.
  • Do not use public computers or public wireless for your online shopping. Public computers may contain malicious software that steals your credit card information when you place your order. Additionally, criminals may be intercepting traffic on public wireless networks to steal credit card numbers and other confidential information.
  • Pay by credit card, not debit card. A safer way to shop on the Internet is to pay with a credit card rather than debit card. Debit cards do not have the same consumer protections as credit cards. Credit cards are protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act and may limit your liability if your information was used improperly. Check your statements regularly.
  • Know your online shopping merchants. Limit your online shopping to merchants you know and trust. If you have questions about a merchant, check with the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission. Confirm the online seller's physical address, where available, and phone number in case you have questions or problems.
  • Look for "https" when making an online purchase. The "s" in "https" stands for "secure" and indicates that communication with the webpage is encrypted.
  • Type the store’s name or URL into a search engine and see what other people have said about the website in the past. Look for terms like “scam,” “never again” or “fake.” A lack of reviews is also not a good sign, as it indicates that the website is very new.

What to do if you encounter problems with an online shopping site

Contact the seller or the site operator directly to resolve any issues. You may also contact the following:

Additional cyber tips on safe online shopping