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5 Tips to Stay Safe Online this Cyber Monday

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There’s a new annual holiday event that a lot of smart shoppers are catching on to. Instead of waking up early and standing outside in the cold to battle the sea of shoppers once the doors open, a lot of consumers are checking out the ads and sales papers for an event that happens shortly after Black Friday. Called Cyber Monday, it’s a great way to plan ahead and save a lot of money this holiday season, all from the comfort of your own computer screen.

Cyber Monday can get your holiday shopping off to a really good start, but only if you know how to protect yourself and your family during your online activities. However, any time you mix internet websites, your financial information, and your personal data, the chances for identity theft go up.

Here are some helpful hints to protect your identity during the event:

1. Going Mobile? Keep It Safe – If you’re like one of the growing numbers of consumers who’ve turned to shopping on their mobile devices, you should put some protection in place. If you have the option to shop through a dedicated store app, that’s usually a safer bet than trying to browse and buy on the mobile version of the store’s main website. Regardless of how you make your purchases, though, make sure you look out for the HTTPS designation at the front of the web address. That tells you the website is secure.

2. Passcode and Password – Keeping others out of your personal data business is always important, but too many people overlook the dangers of their mobile devices. Your smartphone and tablet are gateways to your identity whether you know it or not, so it’s important to passcode lock them in case of theft or loss. But on this Cyber Monday when you’re shopping from the safety of a home network, it’s equally important to create strong, unique passwords for all of your online accounts. This is especially true for any new accounts you may establish as you browse unfamiliar websites.

3. Only the Best For You! – When you’re shopping online, be careful of shady-looking websites that claim to offer the hottest holiday toys and gadgets. Also, be very careful around these online auction sites that say they’re selling iPads for $50 or flat-screen televisions for $100. By sticking with major retailers and known web addresses, you’re more likely to actually receive your stuff. Your identity is also more securely protected, even in the event of a hacking, due to insurance against data breaches that many companies have in place.

4. Don’t Go Phishing – This is the perfect time of year to be caught in a phishing email net. After all, you’re very busy, you’re still looking for that “perfect” gift, and scammers know you’re likely to click on a link if there’s a promise of getting something off your to-do list. Never click on a link or an attachment in an email that you weren’t expecting, even if it seems to come from someone you know. At the same time, don’t fall for a “spoof” email that appears to come from your bank or credit card provider, telling you that there’s an issue with your account that you can resolve by clicking the link or entering your account information.

5. Secure Your Computer – No matter how you choose to shop this season, protect your computer now and into the New Year with strong anti-virus and anti-malware software. Having it in place before you shop on Cyber Monday will help protect you from harmful content in the websites you visit while browsing. Once installed, you’ll need to make sure you update it routinely whenever notifications arrive. Protective software is only as strong as it was the day you installed it if you don’t update it.

However you choose to celebrate the holidays, just remember to keep your security at the top of your to-do list. It’s a gift you’ll give yourself all year long.

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