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Shopping Safely Online

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Online shopping is just a way of life these days. Most people don't even think twice about using their credit cards to make a transaction with some online entity, but that complacency could be costly if you aren't careful. Shopping online can be a perfectly safe experience, but there are a few things to keep in mind when doing it.

1. Check your surroundings. You wouldn't go into a shady looking store that didn't appear safe, so you shouldn't trust your online security with a website that doesn't feel right. While appearances aren't everything, you should do a little extra homework if the site doesn't look very professional.

2. Keep your computer secure. This includes running anti-virus software, keeping your operating system and browsers updated, and securing your internet connection. If your computer is up to date and you're using a secure connection you greatly minimize the possibility of a security breach.

3. Only use secure shopping sites. There are two main types of websites out there. Secured and unsecured. Secured sites use something called SSL and are usually identified by the display of a padlock or other icon in the address bar. In addition, the website URL should start with "https." This ensures the data you submit like your credit card information are being encrypted as it travels across the web.

4. Use a credit card instead of debit card. While debit cards can be used for online transactions using a credit card adds one more layer of protection. Most importantly, if the worst does happen and your account information is stolen or intercepted the worst they can do is run up charges on your card. With a debit card this would mean draining your bank account. In addition, credit cards are usually easier to dispute fraudulent charges and may even offer additional protections a debit card does not.

5. Be wary when clicking on ads. Advertising is everywhere on the web and it's easy to see something that looks interesting and then click on it to learn more. Most businesses use legitimate online media buying for their advertising which means the ads will be served and provided by well-known advertising companies, but some sites may bypass this route and host their own ads that could send you to a site you weren't expecting.

6. Be vigilant when it comes to checking statements. If you do any online shopping it's vital to go over your financial statements every month. Don't just assume that everything is fine because you don't notice a lot of money missing. Many times the identity thieves will simply do a test charge of a dollar or two to see if the card works and may not strike and take a lot of money until weeks or months down the road. So if you see any unusual charge it's best to address it immediately before more damage can be done.

Shopping online can certainly be convenient, but you do have to be careful. With a little common sense you should have nothing to worry about when making that next transaction.

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