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News & Features | Nov 23rd, 2011

From Black Friday to Cyber Monday: 5 Tips to Avoid Online Credit Fraud

Elaine Rigoli

Want to score some hot deals this Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

Sure you do, but what steps are you taking to make sure you don't also score the attention of hackers and other cyber-thieves?

Implement these five tips to ensure smooth and safe online shopping:

  1. Use a personal VPN. Having your transactions encrypted with a personal VPN like PRIVATE WiFi is the most recommended way to surf online in wireless hotspots. So if you plan to score deals while in a public wifi environment -- say, while waiting for your flight at the airport or just hanging out at your favorite coffee shop -- use a personal VPN to prevent hackers from sniffing your sensitive financial data.
  2. Shop smart. Choose respectable and trustworthy companies. Not sure about a site's reputation? Search their name to see how they rank with the Better Business Bureau, and Google the site's name to see what you find about them -- both good and bad.
  3. Choose credit (not debit) for online purchases. This simple step can offer you additional security, thanks to the federal Fair Credit Billing Act. Plus, if your card offers a reward program, you could rack up points while shopping. Just make sure to keep a record of all purchases.
  4. Consider where you click. The Federal Trade Commission's new "Paying It Safe" guide to e-payments advises never giving your password to anyone online, never downloading files sent to you by strangers, and never clicking on hyperlinks from people you don’t know. Opening a file could expose your system to a computer virus or a program that could hijack your modem.
  5. Monitor your mobile apps. A National Retail Federation survey revealed more people are using mobile devices (50% will use a smartphone; 70% will use a tablet) to research items and make purchases. However, if you use your smartphone or tablet to shop online, be sure to click "no" when asked whether you want a site to remember your password. If you lose your phone or tablet and someone finds it, your account details will be unprotected and the chance of becoming a credit fraud victim increases significantly.

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