Posted by: Kelley Dees | November 17, 2011

Online Shopping: Is it safe?

With the holiday season coming up, online shopping is bound to be on your list of to-dos. According to a survey by MarketLive, 55% of people did at least some of their holiday shopping online in 2009, and those numbers are sure to grow each year. I know I’ve personally purchased two gifts online already. How about you?

Shopping online can be very rewarding. You can find great deals that sometimes aren’t available in stores. It can be a huge time-saver when compared with driving all over town to find gifts. With our limited availability of larger retail locations in Wyoming and the sometimes treacherous roads, it can save you time and gas by not having to drive elsewhere to find gifts. If you have physical limitations, online shopping can also help you by not having to fight the crowds. However, there are downsides to shopping online. You can shop online safely, but there are a few things to keep in mind to protect your identity.

1. Check the web address before entering any information. When ordering online from ANY retailer, the web address should begin with https  The key here is that extra S after the http. This means that you will be sending information over a secure connection with the retailer. If there is not a https address, consider purchasing from a retailer that does offer secure internet transactions.

2. Protect your computer from online threats including money-stealing Trojans. Fraudsters are waiting to take advantage of the millions of credit card transactions that will be made online this holiday season. Any weak links in your network will help them gain access to your personal and credit information. Trojans are a sophisticated phishing tool that helps thieves grab your bank account and credit card login information. Some Trojans are even created to quietly drain small amounts from your bank accounts over the holiday period based on the assumption that you’ll be too busy to check exactly how much you’re spending until the New Year. Basic ways to avoid Trojans?

  • Do NOT open attachments or click on email links. Even if you receive an email from a family member, be sure it is ACTUALLY from them before you open any links. Just this morning, I received an email from my father-in-law that had a virus attached. I rarely receive emails from him, but I knew to check first before opening any links.
  • Be careful where you surf and stick to online “neighborhoods” where you really feel safe. If you use online banking, consider shopping through your credit card’s online shopping. Not only will you only be sent to safe and verified online retailers, but you’ll probably also receive cash back or other benefits from your credit card company.
  • Regularly patch your computer and update your anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall software.

3. Take a tip from online merchants and “trust but verify.” Whether it’s online shopping searches, incredible gift offers, or holiday wishes from your Twitter “Tweeps” or Facebook friends, the best way to avoid gift-wrapping yourself for scammers this year is to turn your cynicism on to the highest level. If you think before you click, you may play the Grinch to an identity thief.

4. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Hackers are upping the stakes by hacking into ranking systems of major search engines like Yahoo! and Google so that their fraudulent websites appear at the top of shopper searches, and unfortunately, most shoppers still believe that if a website appears at the top of a search engine’s list, it has to be legitimate.

5. Do NOT give out your financial information over the phone or email. If your bank or credit card company sends you an email or even calls you warning you of insufficient funds or other problems with your account, contact them directly using the customer service numbers posted on their websites. Don’t respond to their emails or to any number they provide in an email or phone message.

6. Keep travel plans private. Don’t give a gift to digital burglars by Tweeting or posting updates to Facebook about your holiday plans like when you’re going to be away from home or all the cool stuff you bought. Otherwise, your new purchases may end up under someone else’s tree. If you have a smart phone, consider turning off GPS services, as pictures that you take and upload to Facebook and Twitter can have GPS tags (only visible to those who know how to find them) that tell your followers your exact location.

7. Do a post-holiday credit health check-up. After the holidays are over, be sure to check your credit reports, credit card statements, and bank statements to verify all transactions. Each transaction you made, either in retail stores or online, could have been compromised, adversely affecting your credit and your credit score. Notify your bank or credit card company IMMEDIATELY if you see anything suspicious!

8. Be careful buying gift cards. Make sure that you purchase gift cards that are legitimate and secure. Avoid buying gift cards secondhand from an unverified source.

This information is provided courtesy of the Wyoming AgrAbility Project. For more information, visit our website or call toll-free at 866-395-4986.

This information is adapted from the Fight Identity Theft blog. Please visit them for more information on ways to fight identity theft.



  1. Hey , Nice post thanks for the sharing with us … 🙂

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