Simple Safety Tips When Shopping Online this Holiday Season!

Takes just a minute to protect yourself a bit more this holiday season.  Shopping online always seems the “easier” way but can also lead to nightmares.  Take the time to make sure you’re doing everything you need to do to protect your family from being hacked!

Shoppers in the U.S. are expected to spend $95 billion this holiday, up 11% from a year ago, says a forecast published Monday from research firm Forrester. Mobile shopping will play a big role in holiday shopping, as more users turn to their smartphones and tablets during Thanksgiving and Black Friday to make purchases. The Forrester forecast found retailers reported 87% growth in mobile phone sales last year. – see USA Today report.

That figure is not surprising, considering that with the click of a mouse or the touch of a smartphone or tablet screen consumers can shop and buy nearly any product online no matter where they are. However, the same threats exist when you’re shopping on a phone, tablet or PC as when you’re shopping in malls and department stores.

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Just as you take measures to protect yourself in actual physical stores (protecting your PIN numbers when using a debit card or not leaving your purse or wallet unattended); you should also take sensible precautions when shopping online. AT&T offers these online shopping tips to help make safe decisions when you shop online this holiday season:

Protect Your Device

· Always ensure your computer, tablet or smartphone has up-to-date anti-virus and firewall software and security patches installed.

· Make sure you are using the latest version of the web browser.

· Enable browser filtering to report suspicious websites and to block phishing.

Research the Merchant

· Try to do business with companies you know. If the company is unfamiliar, check their credentials.

· Look for a feedback section on the site and read the comments from other shoppers.

· Look for a “trust mark” from a reputable organization, like BBB Online (Better Business Bureau), to check the retailer’s reliability and their proven track record of satisfying customers.

· Do not be afraid to call and ask questions to determine the legitimacy of the business.

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Pay Attention to your Browser and Internet Connection

· Using Public Wi-Fi – Public Wi-Fi is not secure, so it’s okay to use when just browsing online. However, never make an online purchase with a credit card using public Wi-Fi.

– Unsecure Wi-Fi does not use encryption, and credit card information will be transmitted in the clear.

· Shop Only at Secure Web Sites – Or better yet…use a retailer’s app, if available on your smartphone or tablet

– Apps typically have an extra layer of security and encryption, making them safer to use

– The web address should begin with https://. The “s” at the end of “http” indicates that the connection to the web site is secure.

– Sometimes the “s” will not appear until you actually get to the order screen.

– Another way to determine if the site is secure is to look for a closed padlock or unbroken key at the bottom of the browser window.

· Read All Policies, Terms and Conditions – Every reputable website will offer information on how it processes orders, shipping costs, handles returns and refunds, and other inquiries.

– The site should also explain their security and privacy policies, the type of personal information they are gathering, why and how it will be used, and whether it is shared with other companies.

– Cookies – Without your knowledge, some companies attach pieces of code (cookies) to your Internet Browser when you visit their website. These cookies track and monitor sites you visit.

– The information is collected, compiled and used to target advertising based on your surfing habits (behavioral marketing).

– Web browsers can be set to disable or refuse cookies, but it may limit the functions of the website and possibly prevent you from placing your order.

When you’re ready to place your order…

· Double Check Pricing – Be suspicious of prices that are too good to be true. Compare prices, both online and offline, and with other merchants, especially if you’re bidding on an item through an online auction site.

– Make sure you know the costs for shipping and handling, including express and overnight delivery.

– Be advised that some merchants also charge fees for returning and/or restocking items.

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· Pay With Credit Cards – Unless using a gift card, the safest way to shop online is with a credit card. If something goes wrong, you’re protected under the Federal Fair Credit Billing Act, which gives you the right to dispute charges, withhold payments and are only responsible for the first $50 in charges if the card is compromised.

– Also check your credit card statements carefully for several months after making an online purchase.

– If you find discrepancies, immediately contact your credit card company to dispute the charges and file a claim.

– Information on credit card consumer protection can be found at http://www.privacyrights.org.

· Never Disclose Too Much Information – When making an online purchase, the merchant will require certain information to process the order, ex: name, address and payment type. Your Social Security Number is NEVER needed for an online purchase; therefore you should never provide it.

– Merchants may also ask you questions about your lifestyle or annual income.

– Providing this information can lead to unsolicited email, U.S. mail or telephone solicitations.

– This information is not required to process an order, although a merchant’s website may indicate that it is.

– If the site requires any information that you are uncomfortable providing, find a different company to purchase from.

About Leslie Pleasants

Leslie Pleasants is the founder of Today's Every Mom. Inspired by her own busy life with kiddos she set out to create a spot where Moms of any stage or age could find relevant and resourceful advice.