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The holiday season is a wonderful time for so many reasons. Families get together, total strangers reach out to help those in need, and generosity and the spirit of giving is felt far and wide. But sadly, it's also prime time for cyber criminals to steal your data. With that in mind here are five tips to keep your shopping experience merry and bright.
Start at a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray, especially when you drift past the first few pages of links.
Never, ever, ever buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn't have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed at the very least. You'll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://) and a locked padlock icon will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser.
No online shopping store is going to need your social security number or your birthday to do business. When you can, default to giving up the least amount of information.
Don't wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly during the holiday season and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Make sure you don't see any fraudulent charges, even originating from sites like PayPal (after all, there's more than one way to get to your money).
Bad guys don't just sit around waiting for you to give them data; sometimes they give you a little something extra to help things along. Protect against things like Trojan horse malware with regular updates to your anti-virus program.
You can read more about how to stay safe when shopping for the holidays here.