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Safety Tips For Online Shopping This Christmas Season

by Contributor

This Christmas, many are skipping the long lines to buy gifts online. Saving time and money (less gas and often free shipping) can be convenient, but you need to be careful where and to whom you give your valuable digits. Whether you shop online all the time or only during a blue moon, caution is needed this Christmas season as you hunt for bargains. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes and the more information people know about you online, the more likely you become a target!

So ‘tis the season to be careful!

Here are some dos and don’ts:

Three things not to do:

  1. Don’t use debit cards for online purchases. If your debit card gets hacked, the thieves can go straight to your bank account and drain it. You know that $50 limited liability common to credit cards? You have to report identity theft within two days to get that $50 limited liability with a debit card. [Editor's note: If you prefer not to use credit cards, then consider an alternative method of payment, such as eBillme, where you can shop securely online without a credit card].
  2. Don’t shop using Wi-Fi. I have seen people get ripped off this way. When using Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, hotel, airport, or restaurant, you are making yourself vulnerable to identity theft. Your iPhone, Blackberry, Smartphone and laptop can easily be hacked on a free or paid public Wi-Fi spot.
  3. Don’t get fired for shopping at work. Some workplaces are becoming more and more restrictive of what employees do “while on the clock”. Don’t get fired for shopping at work. You may laugh but I have seen it happen. If for some strange reason you can’t shop from home, make it quick – restrict purchases to breaks, lunchtime, or off the clock.

Things to do:

  1. Do use just one credit card. If you use only one credit card for all of your online shopping and it’s stolen, you only have one company to deal with. Additionally, some credit card companies now provide you with the choice of creating a personalized, protected online transaction number for every online purchase you make. What this means is the retailer never sees your card number just the online transaction number.
  2. Do pay close attention to web addresses. Always look for the “https://” when you enter personal information. This means you are transmitting data within a secure site. Also look for a padlock symbol at the bottom of the browser window and the VeriSign or CyberTrust marks of security.
  3. Do watch where you click. A new crime wave has been occurring with fake sites –sites created using a similar web address and look/feel of the real site. They capture your credit card info and they are off to the races. Watch for suspicious pop-ups, attachments from unknown sources, or strange web links. I once saw someone respond to a fake Paypal request with their username and password. Here’s a hint: PayPal, Google, Yahoo, etc always refer to you with the name you set up – not Dear Paypal User and they never request you send personal data via email. If even remotely suspicious, trust your gut instinct!
  4. Do get the latest web protection software on your laptop or PC. Do you have the latest the security and firewall programs on your computer? If not make sure you’re software has been updated within at least the past 60-90 days (preferably 30 days) as new viruses and attack spots crop up daily.
  5. Do change your passwords regularly. If you frequent a site often, don’t continue using the same password. Mix it up regularly. By using a combination of letter, numbers, and capital letters, you make yourself less vulnerable to theft or attack.

The Christmas Season should be a time for joy, for family and loved ones, and most importantly celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! By playing it safe online, you stand to have less aggravation, heartache, and potentially fewer adverse financial conditions (granted you don’t max out the credit cards).

Want to stay true to your values as you shop this Christmas?

If you want to stay true to your values this Christmas, the American Family Association has published a list of naughty and nice retailers. Based on current advertising, the list shows companies that avoid, ban, or use the term “Christmas” in their advertising.

To view the list Click Here.

Jay Peroni, renowned financial advisor and author of The Faith-Based Millionaire and The Faith-Based Investor, is an expert authority on the subject of “Faith-Based Investing.” He is the editor of Faith-Based Investor, a stock newsletter, and is President & CEO of Values First Advisors, Inc – a firm dedicated to values-based investment management and financial planning.


Published or updated December 7, 2009.
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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Manshu

These are good tips, and a nice reminder too. I used to be really careful with online shopping, but have become a little lax these days. Even then I feel good that I am not doing any of the don’ts in this list.

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2 Don@MoneyReasons

Thanks for the tips. I also make sure my antivirus software is current too. It might even be a good idea to do a full disk scan at least once before shopping online.

Some spyware programs are pretty clever now too. Some will change the host file on your computer, so that even though you type www[dot]famousStoreName[dot]com, it still will redirect to the bad guy’s site without you knowing. Norton and Mcafee usually detect most of them! It’s not a bad idea to check your host file ever blue moon just to make sure.

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3 Ryan

Thanks for the tip, Don. I had one of those viruses on my work computer once and it hijacked all search engine results. It was so bad they had to ghost the hard drive and give me another one. The company changed their antivirus software shortly afterward because it was missing a lot of viruses.

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4 Don@MoneyReasons

Unfortunately that happened to me on my home laptop.

Luckily, I use a free ghost-like software package call “DriveImage XML” (if your interested, it’s at http://www.runtime.org/driveimage-xml.htm), and so I was able to restore my laptop’s image from a weekly backup.

I think that everybody should consider using some kind imaging software weekly (or at least monthly), in addition to backups… you never know when a virus/spyware could hit. Plus the external drives are sooo cheap now. At best buy, you can get a 1 Terabyte drive for about $100 to $150 dollars.

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5 Ryan

Sorry to hear about that Don. Good point on the backup software and external drives. I’m actually planning on upgrading my OS soon, so I need to back everything up just in case. I plan on buying a larger drive though, because my current external drive won’t hold another image, plus the data I currently have stored.

6 Financial Samurai

Wow, has someone really gotten FIRED from their job shopping online?? Tell me that ain’t so. Reprimanded, maybe, but fired? I don’t believe it.

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7 Billy

The wifi part is disturbing…wonder when it will be secure??? Thanks for the GREAT tips!

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