Along with the increased shopping, there is also increased opportunities for scams, phishing, and identity theft. If the deal sounds too good to be true, most likely there are hidden strings, such as high shipping costs.
Protect Your PCBefore you start shopping, take care of basic security. This includes having a software firewall and up-to-date antivirus and anti-malware software.
- If your antivirus software license expired, either renew the license or uninstall it and download and install Microsoft Security Essentials. (If the replaced antivirus was a "security suite", be sure to activate the Windows Firewall when uninstalling.)
- Now run a full system scan with your updated antivirus software.
- Next, scan with an anti-malware software. If you do not have an anti-malware software, my favorite is Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware. Another popular program is SUPER AntiSpyware.
- Check for and install Security Updates, including third-party software such as Adobe Flash and Java.
- Be sure you are using an updated browser. Each version release includes security updates.
Protect Your CreditYour computer is ready and so are you. But, safety precautions do not end with your computer. Now the onus is on you to protect your credit.
- Shop at reputable websites. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it is probably a scam. Customer evaluations are available at sites like Epinions.com or BizRate to help you determine the legitimacy of a company.
- ONLY do your online shopping from home and never from an insecure public WiFi spot or public area like an Internet cafe.
- To complete your purchases, checking out will require creating an account. It is not advisable to store your credit card and other personal information on the website.
- At checkout, the site web address should be https: and there should be a closed padlock there or in the lower right corner of your browser. If not, forget about it. You will be giving away your credit card information!
- It is best to use a "true" credit card, rather than a debit card as it is better fraud protection.
- At the completion of your order, print or make a screen copy, including the confirmation number, as a receipt for your purchase.
TipsFinally, a couple of money-saving tips that may result in additional savings when you shop online.
- Be wary of most of the "coupon sites". However, there is at least one that I am aware of that appears to have a good reputation and is "McAfee Secure":
"Hundreds of well-known online stores like Barnes and Noble, Staples, and Overstock.com have a place within their shopping cart for a "coupon code" that gives a percent or dollar amount off your purchase. If you don't know the code, you can't take advantage of the discount. You can find these secret discount codes and coupon codes listed on many sites across the internet but the problem with these sites is that they're usually personal homepages and they don't maintain their lists! Currentcodes.com has a full-time staff of trained individuals whose only job is to find new coupon codes and discount codes and verify the accuracy of the existing database. We don't flood you with ads and we don't throw deals in your face. No hype, just current codes."
- Check CyberMonday.com which includes special offers, including free shipping, at hundreds of online merchants. On the actual Cyber Monday, the site will provide hourly specials and exclusives from popular online retailers. A portion of the proceeds from CyberMonday.com supports the Ray Greenly Scholarship Fund.
- RetailMeNot.com has printable coupons as well as coupon codes for online shopping. It is definitely worth checking.