Monday, November 28, 2011

9 Top Tips - How to Shop Securely & Safely Online for Holiday Gifts Especially on Cyber Monday


Cyber Monday is off to a running start, following on the heels of a very strong Black Friday shopping spree at traditional stores over the weekend. In fact, according the the National Retail Federation retailers rang up an estimated $52.4 billion in sales in the short time since Thanksgiving Day alone. That amounts to a whopping average $398.62 spent per U.S. shopper in the first four days of the traditional holiday shopping season. With everything seemingly positive for consumers who have so many opportunities to snag great deals this year, you'd think 'tis the season to be jolly while shopping up a storm to grab all those bargains. Unfortunately, with all this gift buying gusto comes the higher likelihood that you or someone you know will end up a victim of theft especially for those shopping via the Internet. Read on to learn how to make sure this doesn't happen to you.

MommyBlogExpert's teen son on his laptop 
iPhone Photo by Janis Brett Elspas,

According to consumer money-saving expert, Andrea Woroch, you don't have to be a sitting duck this holiday season. Instead, check out her quick and easy tips to avoid getting ripped off.
  • Use Security Software - Security software installed on your computer is essential. Norton and McAfee are two of the most popular companies offering this protection, but there's also plenty of other suppliers and good free shareware available. Whatever you choose, it's wise to make sure this software includes firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware capabilities at a minimum. 

  • Look for the "S" at checkout - Once you reach the payment section of the site you're shopping on the url address should change from "http" to "https," indicating your purchase is encrypted and/or secured. Most legitimate merchants also display badges from security brands like VeriSign, GeoTrust, Comodo and Entrust.

  • Use a Unique Password - Everyone knows it's a real pain to memorize different passwords for each site you shop on, but you'll reduce the chances of identity theft if you vary these. It's always a good idea to avoid using personal information like birthdate, names, etc. as your password. Instead, why not use 8-10 random numbers and letters for the best security? 

  • Opt for More Secure Payment Options - Since the law allows you to dispute credit card charges and unauthorized you can protect yourself simply by using these cards. Companies like PayPal even offers purchase protection with $0 liability for unauthorized purchases, guaranteed refunds for incorrect orders or items that are not received by you.

  • Hide Your Identity - Don't want an online retailer to remember you the second time you visit a site because their server uses cookies? You can avoid having your tracking information stored by using a site like Anonymizer to hide your identity or GuerillaMail to create a temporary email address that only lasts for 60 minutes which is enough time -- in many cases -- to shop, checkout and receive your confirmation email.

  • Review All Your Order Details - Make sure the deal you can for to a site is still there at checkout. If you are using a coupon code confirm before paying that the savings have been calculated into the actual total. The same things goes for discounted or free delivery. BTW, if you only buy from sites with free shipping you may want to wait to purchase until December 16, which is Free Shipping Day. On that date, for 24 hours only, you can shop and buy from over 2,000 merchants that are offering this free shipping special, complete with delivery by Christmas Eve.

  • Watch out for Fake Invoices - Some cyber criminals send phony invoices and delivery notifications that are designed to look legitimate. You'll be able to pick these out easily when you receive an email that asks for your billing information and personal details. Another word to the wise to avoid a security problem: Be wary about opening any attachment to view an invoice.

  • Research Who You Buy From - This is particularly important where there are many small and solo businesses marketing their wares. On sites like eBay and Amazon pay attention to ratings by other buyers as to a business's dependability, customer service, and product quality. You're likely to end up a happier buyer if you deal only with those who have good or excellent ratings.

  • Avoid Shopping on Public Networks - At Internet cafes, airports, libraries, and other public places, encryption is often out of your control when shopping via public networks.  While chances are you'll be safe just browsing and bookmarking items in these types of settings, shoppers in the know generally avoid transmitting credit card info, personal information, and passwords in high traffic locations like these. Also, don't log in to unidentifiable non-password protected wi fi networks. Those who aren't careful with these strategies could fall victim to a casual hacker or identity thief who's trolling for an easy mark just like you on one of these unsecure networks. 
With a little bit of effort and a lot of vigilance, you'll likely to have many happy shopping excursions online this holiday.

Please share your comments on these ideas to protect shoppers this holiday season. Also, feel free to add your own suggestions on how to stay safe while shopping by leaving a comment below.

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1 comment:

  1. People's cell phones are being hacked for information regarding e-mails or credit card details etc. It probably won't happen to a cheap cell phone so I'm not worried to much about the Tracfones I've bought for my family. I've been accumulating all the free phones I've been getting on the Tracfone internet over this last year when purchasing phone cards, and they were delivered to my door free of charge. I now have Christmas presents for the whole family which I never paid a cent for. As we have had a tough financial year for the family as business hasn't been so great for my husband, these phones are a great option for gifts.