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The Cyber Monday Shopping Survival Guide (and How to Protect Yourself)

It’s never too early to start thinking about online identity theft as you plan your online holiday shopping.

While the holiday shopping season is not quite in full swing yet, online retailers are already dishing out sales and specials to give early bird shoppers a head start on the gift buying bonanza.  Perhaps it seems a bit early to even think about purchasing gifts, the reality is it’s never too early to start thinking about protecting your identity, long before the holiday shopping spree has begun.

Cyber Monday is the online counterpart to Black Friday; marketing companies all over use this day to push Black Friday-like deals, but online for those who prefer not to shop in brick and mortar stores.  Online shopping has certainly alleviated the crowds, the chaos, and the bustle of in-person shopping, but as with anything on the Internet, taking the proper steps to protect yourself online while exchanging sensitive information is something shoppers need to take seriously to prevent online identity theft.

Here’s a quick Cyber Monday survival guide to ensure you’re protected as you shop online this holiday season.

SHOP ONLY FROM A SECURE MACHINE

A computer that isn’t protected by full-fledged security software is more likely to be compromised by malware.  When that happens, all data entered into or transmitted from that computer is at risk, including all forms of personally identifiable information, credit-card numbers and bank accounts.

MAKE SURE YOUR CONNECTION IS ALSO SECURE

Always look for the HTTPS lock symbol in your browser address window when performing an online purchase.  Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to.  The ‘S’ at the end of HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’.  It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted.  HTTPS is often used to protect highly confidential online transactions like online banking and online shopping order forms.

SHOP ONLY FROM TRUSTED VENDORS

Any website can be attacked by hackers, but limiting your shopping to established and trusted vendors limits your exposure. A safe vendor will communicate to its customers on its website or through customer support how they keep personal information safe from harm’s way. Safe vendors have secure websites, use secure sockets layer (SSL) technology, and subscribe to safety certifications. Safe vendors never ask for more information than is necessary and, of course, have stellar reviews from happy (verified) customers.

REVIEW YOUR CREDIT CARD AND BANK STATEMENTS OFTEN AND THOROUGHLY

Malware can infect credit-card readers in stores, and unscrupulous cashiers can steal card numbers as well.  If you find a transaction that doesn’t match your purchases, your account may have been compromised.  If so, contact your bank or card issuer.

DON’T TOSS YOUR STATEMENTS WHEN THE HOLIDAY SHOPPING SEASON IS OVER

Keep these documents for your next shredding visit and let Legal Shred destroy them safely and securely.

Knowing that vendors are responsible for your privacy may have you feeling powerless and overwhelmed.  If you follow this list of safety guidelines, you’ll greatly reduce your chances of financial fraud and online identity theft.

Happy shopping!

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