Use familiar web sites: Shop at trusted sites rather than shopping with a search engine as search results can be rigged to lead you astray. If you know the site, chances are it’s less likely to be a rip off. Stick with familiar sites like Amazon.com. Just about every major retail outlet has an online store. Beware of misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain (.net instead of .com)—those are the oldest tricks in the book. Yes, the sales on these sites might look enticing, but that’s how they trick you into giving up your info.
Look for the lock: Never ever; ever buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. The URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP ://). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar.
Never, ever give anyone your credit card over email
Don’t tell all: No online shopping store needs your social security number or your birthday. However, if crooks get them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage. The more they know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, default to giving up the least amount of information.
Check statements: Go online regularly during the holiday season and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts to monitor for fraudulent charges, even originating from sites like PayPal.
Check your credit report: Go to www.annualcreditreport.com. It is the government offered free report available once a year from each of the credit agencies. It is suggested to stagger free reports across the year, so you can get a free report every four months. Also, if you are married, stagger you and your spouse’s reports. They are different.
If you do see something wrong: Pick up the phone to address the matter quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only once you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems, however; after that, you might be liable for the charges anyway.
Inoculate your PC: Swindlers don’t just sit around waiting for you to give them data. Sometimes they give you a little something extra to help things along. You need to protect against malware with regular updates to your anti-virus program.
Use strong passwords: Utilizing un-crackable passwords is never more important than when banking and shopping online. Tips for creating a unique password can come in handy during a time of year when shopping around probably means creating new accounts on all sorts of e-commerce sites.
Think mobile: The National Retail Federation says that 5.7 percent of adults will use their mobile devices to do comparison shopping before making a purchase. (And 32.1 percent will comparison shop online with a computer, as well.) The trick is to use apps provided directly by the retailers, like Amazon, Target, etc. Use the apps to find what you want and then make the purchase directly, without going to the store or the web site.
Avoid public terminals: It’s a bad idea to use a public computer to make a purchase. If you do, just remember to log out every time you use a public terminal, even if you were just checking email.
What about using your own laptop to shop at Starbucks: It’s one thing to hand over a credit card to get swiped at the checkout, but when you must enter the number and expiration date on a web site while sitting in a public cafe, you’re giving an over-the-shoulder snooper plenty of time to see the goods. And public Wi-Fi is not really secure.
Privatize your Wi-Fi: Now is not a good time to try out unfamiliar hotspots. Stick to known networks like those found at Starbucks or Barnes & Noble stores powered by AT&T. Look for the network named “attwifi,” then open a browser to click into the “walled garden” to get final access.
Count the cards: Gift cards are the most requested holiday gift every year. Stick to the source when you buy one. Scammers like to auction off gift cards on sites like eBay with little or no funds on them.
Know what’s too good to be true: Once again, McAfee has compiled a Twelve Scams of Christmas list, all things to be aware of while shopping. The “coupon scam” offers of a free product with purchase, in particular an iPad (a very coveted gadget at any holiday) or even holiday job offers. Many of these “offers” will come in via social media. Beware even of your friends, who might innocently forward such a thing. Be very wary even if you get a message from friend claiming he or she has been robbed, especially a friend overseas looking for money to be wire transferred, unless you absolutely can confirm it by talking to him or her personally. Skepticism in most cases can go a long way toward saving you from a stolen card number.
Consider a temporary credit card number: Many credit card companies offer them. http://www.moneytalksnews.com/2010/09/14/virtual-credit-card/
Have things shipped to your office: If you shop to your home, make sure a neighbor that will be at home can get your packages. Don’t leave them on the doorstep. Not only could your package be missing, your entire house could be emptied out.