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Internet Shopping Safety

Lifestyle & Opinion

By Wanda Cobb

If Sony, Home Depot, and Target can be hacked, so can you.

Assuming you already have antivirus software, a firewall, and anti-spying software, here are a few tips to keep your money safe this holiday season.

1. Never use public Wi-Fi. Instead, set up your own VPN (virtual private network). You can ask your network provider about this. VPN encrypts everything you do. In addition, never do any online banking on public wi-fi.

2. See something online you must have? Get a gift card with shopping money on it. It saves your bank account from recurring charges if there is some fine print involved in the purchase. You can even get your credit card company to issue you a certain amount on a gift card to shop with.

3. Never click on a link sent to you in an email, even if it comes from a friend. Their email may have been hacked, so let your friend know they should change his/her password immediately. If you hover your mouse over a link sent to you (without clicking on it!), you can see where it’s actually from. Some emails appear to come from your bank; they even have a bank logo and look legitimate. Call your bank if this happens, and they will instruct you to forward the suspicious email to them. There is a team that hopes to track where these emails come from.

4. Never give your social security number or birthdate to anyone over the phone or internet when shopping. They don’t need this to do business with you.

5. Never turn off your firewall. It only takes minutes to become infected with malware.

6. Create strong passwords, keep them secure, and change them often. Do not use your name or birthdate in passwords. Use at least 8 characters or more, including special characters. The longer the password the better. You can use a zero for O, @ for a, or # for H.

7. When shopping online or doing online banking, look for a lock symbol images. Also look for https in the website address. https is secure where http is not, but still be careful because these things change daily.

8. Never open emails from someone claiming to have come into a large sum of money. Yes, people really fall for that!

9. Another scam going around is someone calls you on the phone claiming to be tech support and tells you to go to your computer and follow instructions to fix any problems. If you didn’t call them, hang up!

These tips can help keep your money safe while shopping or doing any business online. If you’ve been the victim of internet fraud, here are some helpful links:

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.

Identity Theft Resource Center website.

Identity Theft Hotline: (877) IDTHEFT / (877-438-4338)

Photo by Ed Yourdon (Flickr Creative Commons License)

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