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5 Tips for Secure Online Shopping

1. Protect Passwords: Never share your password with anyone, including computer support or customer support people. When creating a strong password, avoid using things such as your birth date, telephone or Social Security numbers, or names of family members. Strong passwords are at least 8 characters long & contain at least one capital letter, one lower case letter, one number, and one special character (#,%,&, etc.)

2. Verify Website Security: When shopping online, make sure the sites you are using allow you to enter your personal information on a secure page. Pages where you enter your credit card, password, or other personal information should have an “s” after the http part of the web address (not all pages on the site need to have this, just the ones where you enter personal information). This ensures that the data you enter is encrypted when it is transmitted to the web site. Another way to verify the site you are on is secure is looking for the presence of a lock icon in your browser. Many modern browsers have the icon near the web address or on the bottom corner of the browser. The image below shows the ‘s’ after the http & the lock icon on the shopping cart page of GiftCards.com

3. Keep Web Browsers Updated: Keeping your web browser updated is an important part in maintaining a safe online shopping experience. Outdated web browsers may have security flaws that allow malicious sites to steal your information or infect your computer with viruses. Newer versions of browsers contain new/improved features that help protect you online. For example, newer versions of Internet Explorer contain the SmartScreen filter which helps protect you against threats. In 2011, Microsoft launched site www.YourBrowserMatters.org which shows how having up-to-date web browser can help increase online safety.

4. Safely Access the Internet: Try to avoid using public computers when shopping online. Public computers could retain your information if the web browser is configured to use cookies or cache content. Always make sure to log-out after shopping online & delete/clear the browser’s cache/cookies.

Wireless networks (WiFi) are very convenient when shopping online but it pays to make sure you are using a secure wireless connection.  Hotspots found in coffee shops or restaurants are often open networks that lack encryption – leaving you at risk of having your information stolen. When connecting to WiFi networks make sure that they are secure, using encryption such as WPA.

5. Verify Company Reputation: Look on the Web for a reliability seal from a consumer protection group such as the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and do some research on a company before buying from them. Another important thing to check is how easy it is to contact the company – verify that the address & phone number is easily accessible. On GiftCards.com, the physical address & telephone numbers are easily accessible via the about & contact pages.

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