Is shopping online safe?

Each day that passes, we all face risks. Those risks increase during the holidays. We risk car accidents on the way to the mall. We risk being mugged as we walk about the mall. We even risk catching a cold or the flu from a store clerk or another shopper.

So many people decide to play it safe and do their shopping online. But is this really safer?

Just as shopping at the local mall has risks, shopping online has its own set of pitfalls. But these pitfalls can mean financial loss, credit card fraud or identity theft.

According to a recent study by the National Cyber Security Alliance, of almost 3,500 U.S. adults surveyed, 64 percent have not made an online purchase from a specific Web site due to cyber security concerns. Sixty percent said this was because they were unsure whether that site was secure. More than 50 percent worried about providing the requested information, and 48.4 percent felt that the Web site requested more information than necessary for the purchase.

When shopping online, you risk landing on a potentially unsecured or even infected Web site, which could infect your computer with spyware. This spyware could be used to steal your data. Or you might provide your credit card information to a legitimate online merchant that later becomes a victim of a data breach.

But shopping online can be safe – if you take the right precautions. Make sure you have the latest version of your browser loaded onto your computer, keep your anti-virus software updated, and install critical updates to your operating system. You should also make sure to have a firewall installed.

To defend against credit card fraud, pay close attention to your statements and refute any unauthorized transactions within 60 days of discovery.

The only way you can avoid getting scammed by a “shady” site is to do business only with trusted web merchants. Do an online search for the Web site or company’s name prior to making a purchase, and read any reviews you find.

By taking these simple precautions, you can get your holiday shopping done online and keep yourself – and your personal information – safe and secure.

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