We are now entering the official Christmas shopping season and more and more shopping is done on the Internet. Of course, many of you were already buying for Christmas before now.

Here are several tips of mine to help make your online shopping experience safer.

First make sure any site that you are putting personal information in such as passwords, credit and debit card numbers, bank account numbers are all secure sites and really are with the organization you are expecting. Look on the URL address line (where the address of the web page is such as www.dwightwatt.com) is the name or a form of it in the .com or .org before the single slashes (/) and all stuff after. In the case of my website I collect no information from users and do not sell stuff, so my pages are not using encryption or https (Secure Hyper Text Transfer Protocol).

Make sure on page where you will be entering this information it starts with https:// or has a padlock on the line that is in the locked position. This tells you that your information is encrypted (scrambled) when it is transmitted so no one can steal it in transit.

Consider the cards you buy online with. See which ones may offer you online theft protection. I would suggest using them. A lot of them offer you full protection. A credit card can offer you full protection however with most debit cards (and federal regulations set the minimum) you are not protected for certain amounts and you have very tight notification rules on money being taken to report it, so I would strongly suggest using a credit instead of debit card unless you have in writing from bank you are fully protected with debit.

Instead of using links in emails to go to the sites of companies sending you ads, type their address in the URL box to make sure you go to the correct site.

There will be fake emails trying to take us to other spots and get our card numbers and passwords.

Be careful of emails from shipping companies wanting you to click links about missed deliveries. Many of these are fakes and some carry ransom ware in the link. I would not click any links in the shipper’s emails. If questions on a shipment, go to the site of company you bought from and look up the order there and use the link there to check on orders.

Don’t use public Wi-Fi to be doing the purchases as they are often broken into and the information is stolen. This is using Wi-Fi at restaurants, motels, etc. On your home Wi-Fi make sure you are using WPA2 or better to secure signals to protect yourself.

Don’t buy from companies you may have never heard of that have absurdly cheap prices. More than likely it is a scam.

When you set up passwords at shopping sites (and banks and credit cards) make your password a secure, unique password. Then if they suffer a breach and your password is stolen anyone buying your username and password cannot use it to get in other sites.

Also if you get an email that they have your password, consider is the one they say an old one no longer in use, and secondly could they have really done what they say like seeing you doing strange things or watching porn etc.?

Does your computer even have a camera? My advice on these is trash them.

If you know how to use a VPN (virtual private network) you may want to use that particularly if using public Wi-Fi.

If you have a problem with the order and used a credit card, your credit card issuer will often help resolve the problem.

Lastly, I would remind you to make sure Windows (or your operating system) is fully updated (use Updates in Windows, do not click on links in emails to do updates) and that your firewall and anti-virus programs are current and updated. I would also suggest an anti-spyware program that is current also.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas shopping experience (and through the new year and stay safe

Thanks, Glenda, for asking the question.

Dwight Watt does computer work for businesses, individuals and organizations and teaches about computers at a college in Northwest Georgia. His website is www.dwightwatt.com His email address is dwight@dwightwatt.com.

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