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Tips for Safe Shopping Online

As we draw closer to Christmas, you may consider avoiding the hustle and bustle of mall shopping for something a little closer to home: online shopping. CNN.com offers some online shopping security tips when shopping from your computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet:

Make sure the website is secure. Before you enter any personal information, look at your browser bar to make sure the URL begins with HTTPS, not HTTP. The “S” means you are on a secured site. Also look for a small lock icon in your address bar. This means you have an SSL (secure sockets layer) connection. On mobile devices, you may need to pinch-and-zoom to see the “S” on the address bar.

Experts recommend that you only window shop on public WiFi, since it may be unsecured. Wait until you are home before you enter your credit card number or other private information.

If an online store is offering the lowest price, but you are unfamiliar with them, you should look for reviews about the store. A PayPal shopping specialist offers this advice: “If something seems too good to be sure, it probably is.” Be sure to calculate the total cost of an item, including shipping and tax, to determine the lowest price.

When downloading apps for your mobile device, stick with official stores like the App Store for iOS or Google Play for Android. Check the reviews in the app stores to see what others are saying. Or, download a mobile security app to scan new software and links.

Many people now know to avoid phishing scams, but there are still some that can come across incredibly convincing. To be safe, copy and past all links into a new browser window instead of clickign on the hyperlink. Check the originating email address. Or, contact the company to verify the email. It’s always best to remember that legitimate companies will never ask for your private information over emamil or text message, including payment information, usernames, passwords, mother’s maiden name, or social security number.

Experts agree on one important tip regarding phones and tablets: turn on the passcode. If your phone or tablet is lost or stolen, anyone can access the data stored on your device. Even if individual apps require passwords, someone can use your email and phone number to try and reset them. We keep so much of our valuable information on our smartphones and tablets, yet only 54% of Americans turn on the passcode feature. It’s worth the few extra seconds to access your email or open an app.

Be sure to update the operating system and apps on your phone or tablet. Updates address security issues, fixing holes and errors that can be exploited by hackers. On your computer, update the operating system when prompted. On mobile devices, apps often come through a central app store that will notify you when updates are available.

One last tip: use a credit card for purchases rather than a debit card. Credit cards are a more secure online paymetn option because they often offer purchase protection.

Best of luck with the rest of your holiday shopping!