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The holiday season is officially among us which means one thing... shopping! It's important that students, faculty, staff, and the community practice safe online shopping habits, so here are 6 tips for safe online shopping this holiday season.

1. Only Purchase Products on a Secure Browser

But what is a secure browser? You'll know if it is secure because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// instead of just HTTP:// and an icon of a locked padlock will appear in the web address bar.

Example of a Secure Website:

Example of a Secure Website URL | 6 Tips For Safe Online Shopping This Labor Day

Example of Non-Secured Website:

Example of a Not Secure Website URL | 6 Tips For Safe Online Shopping This Labor Day

If you're using Google Chrome, the browser will now indicate if a website is "Secure" or "Not Secure" as pictured in the two examples above.

A secure browser also means that you are not paying for an item via email and you're not providing a website your personal credit card information on a public computer. At a base level, this will prevent hacking.

2. Create Strong Passwords

This is something that is always said as a way to prevent hacking, but it is still relevant because many users do not have strong, updated passwords.

According to password data on Entrepreneur.com, 21% of people use passwords that are over 10 years old, and 47% of people use passwords that are at least 5 years old.

Additionally, the five most popular passwords in 2014 were:

  • 123456
  • password
  • 12345
  • 12345678
  • qwerty

(Check out their awesome password infograph here)

3. Look Out For Fake News... and Don't Fall Prey to It

We've all seen the "Get a free iPad with $50 purchase" deal on social media that just seems too good to be true... and it turns out that it is. According to ITWorld:

Just filling out the form earns you the opportunity to receive calls from people selling magazines, debt reduction services, dubious health cures, low-rent insurance, and high interest loans.

But that's just the beginning. To qualify for that "free" iPad, you've got to fill out 13 separate trial offers .... Every time you sign up for one of these offers these slimeballs get paid. You, on the other hand, will find yourself having to cancel every "free" offer before they start automatically charging your card after the trial period expires.

This is an old scam that's been running for at least a decade, though the bribe offer has changed. I don't know if Better-Gifts sent that fake Facebook invite directly, or if it uses a network of ethics-challenged affiliate marketers. Either way, it's an invitation you'd do well to steer clear of.

4. Regularly Monitor Your Bank Statements

Regularly monitoring your bank statements is a great way to not only avoid hacking from your online shopping, but to also monitor for credit card skimmers at other physical locations that you might shop at.

According to data from Vantiv.com, 22% of consumers who were victims of a data breach reported that the retailer or restaurant that was breached did nothing to notify them of the breach -- so it really is in the consumer's hands to pay close attention for any unusual activity on their bank accounts.


5. Never, Ever, Ever (Did I Mention, Ever?) Give Out Your Social or Birthday 

When paying for a product on a website you will NEVER be asked to include your birthday or social security number, so if you're asked to provide that information exit the web browser immediately and clear your cache.

If hackers get your social security number, birthday, AND credit card information, they can do some serious damage to your identity.

6. Charge it to the Credit Card

Because your bank account is directly linked to your debit card, consider doing your online shopping on a credit card to eliminate the headache of having your bank account directly hacked. Additionally, credit cards will typically offer more protection and less liability if a card number gets stolen.

Overall, just be smart with your shopping to ensure that you aren't falling prey to hackers.

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