Protect or pay: 10 tips for safer online shopping FEATURE
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What's a consumer to do in the age of online holiday shopping?

Where there's money there are thieves nearby. That's the biggest risk facing online shoppers today, whether through phishing, stolen credit cards, mobile malware, or worse, stolen identities.

It's only going to get worse, experts predict. In the next three years, online sales are forecasted to increase by more than 50% to $520 billion annually, according to Forrester Research. Consequently, we should expect to see at least an equal rise (if not more) in the number of attempted theft.

What's a consumer to do, especially as we approach what's expected to be another record year for online holiday shopping? Here are some helpful tips, according to the latest security advisories.

  1. Only buy from "https" addresses. This encrypts your personal information and credits cards so it can't be stolen when hitting submit.

  2. Never buy or bank online over public internet connections. Wait until you're at home or work, on a secure wifi connection, or on your carrier's own data network.

  3. Use credit cards or Paypal over debit cards. While the former are insured against theft, debit cards are as good as cash, meaning when it's gone, there's no getting it back.

  4. Never save your credit card information. Although doing so on browsers and online stores makes life easier, it also exposes you to greater risk.

  5. Shop with trusted and reputable brands. The ones you've done business before. If new to a store, check online reviews and reputation first before purchasing.

  6. Never click on an email or text offers, even convincing ones. To avoid phishing, go directly to the store's website or app instead to verify a tempting promotion.

  7. Password protect mobile devices. In case your device is lost or stolen, this reduces the chance of theft.

  8. Update often. This goes for operating systems, browsers, apps, and all other software as well as aging hardware.

  9. Consider additional internet security software. Installing a popular paid or free program offers an extra layer of security.

  10. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Your online identity, privacy, and finances are worth a whole lot more than any amount of promised savings.

Admittedly, old habits can be hard to break, especially when it comes to convenient online shopping. But all of the above are easy to adopt and can save you a lot of hassle and headaches in the long run. As the experts say, "Protect now or pay later."

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About Blake Snow @blakesnow

Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies.