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Drew: Safety tips for online holiday shopping

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By Samuetta Hill Drew

Online shopping is an easy, painless way to purchase holiday items. Retail outlets have made it even more tempting by offering online specials. There are truly no lines and no waiting, plus all the different sizes and color selections are available, which is not always the case in the mall retail stores. No looking for a parking space, you can shop during inclement weather without leaving the comfort of your home and there are no store hours to adhere to because shopping is available twenty-four hours each day of the week.

Total holiday online sales were approximately 106 billion dollars last year, but consider this: in 2016, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received nearly 3,000,000 online-theft complaints. Victims lost a total of $1.3 billion!

Keep in mind that any time you make an online purchase you are required to use a credit card or bank account information. This is the type of information cyberthieves desire. So yes, cyberthieves agree, it’s an easy painless way to shop, especially if you don’t practice certain safety suggestions.

As earlier articles have stated make sure you shop from secure, encrypted sites only. The best way to determine the safety of this site is to look for that small lock icon in the corner of your URL field. It tells you if the web page you’re browsing on to shop has privacy protection installed. The URL should start with “https instead of http.”  The “s” stands for secure and lets you know the site is using an SSL Certificate. The SSL Certificate secures all of your data as it is passed from your browser to the website’s server.

Don’t use public Wi-Fi to shop. Be mindful that Wi-Fi networks use public airwaves. With just a little tech savvy skill, along with the freely available Wi-Fi password at your favorite café or restaurant, someone can intercept what you’re looking at on the web. This provides the cybercriminal all the information they need for identity theft.

Make sure you have a strong password. We discussed in an earlier article its importance and tips to develop a strong password.

Watch out for holiday scam emails. Most of the time they advertise some type of special offer or a tantalizing low-price deal. Don’t open any unknown email sites. They can infect your computer with a virus. Don’t open them, delete them without clicking on the site or opening any attachments.

If using your mobile device or laptop while drinking coffee/latte at your favorite local café shop is something you enjoy, then use a VPN. VPN is short for “virtual private network.” Use it on your mobile device or laptop before connecting to any public Wi-Fi. The VPN creates an encrypted connection between your smartphone and computer and the VPN server.

As always, it continues to be important to Keep an Eye on Safety even while holiday shopping.