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Tips for safe online shopping

November 21, 2012 12:00AM

While shopping online during the holidays can be more convenient and less hectic, it is not without certain dangers, according to Angela Neria, chief information officer at Pittsburg State University.

Some of the best Internet deals will be available on Cyber Monday (Nov. 26), Neria said, but so too will privacy and identity risks. As one of the busiest online shopping days of the year, Cyber Monday brings with it a myriad of Internet threats.

Neria said it’s important to be aware of those threats in order to protect one’s identity and pocketbook.

“You will find all sorts of bargains online that day,” Neria said, “however with these online bargains there is opportunity for online threats such as phishing scams, identity theft, and malware. It is critical that you use reputable online retailers as well as monitor your credit card account for unusual activity.”

Consumer survey reports predict that Cyber Monday will again top the charts as the most popular shopping day of the holiday season. According to a PriceGrabber.com report, two-thirds of Americans plan to shop on Cyber Monday.

Neria said the following tips are vital to shopping safely online.

- Make sure your computer includes an anti-virus program.

- Avoid purchasing items via a smartphone, as these devices do not carry the anti-virus capabilities that a personal computer offers.

- Beware of fake charities and eCard scams that may lure you in and then request personal information and credit card numbers.

- Consider working with your credit card company or bank to use a one-time credit card number. Some banking and credit card institutions will activate a number for one transaction, with assurance that this one-time number can't be reused.

- If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. By clicking on advertisements for deals too good to be true you are “pulled” into a phishing scam asking for personal information that should not be shared online.

- Make sure that your password for your online accounts (such as Pay Pal) are secure. Use 14 alpha numeric characters with at least one symbol when possible. Microsoft has a nice online tip regarding password strength at:

 http://www.microsoft.com/protect/fraud/passwords/create.aspx.

- Use reputable online retailers to avoid an “overnight scam.”

- Purchase goods over a secure network. Avoid purchases while on an open Wi-Fi network in a public location like an airport, hotel, or restaurant.

- Never give out personal information via an e-mail (even if it appears to be from your bank, Amazon account, PayPal account, etc). These are phishing scams and result in identity theft.

- Be sure to monitor your credit card account(s) regularly. If there are any transactions that you have not authorized you can catch them quickly.

While no online transaction is completely without risk, Neria said, following these tips should help stave off most Internet threats.

©2012 Pittsburg State University