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Silly season security for Internet shoppers

27 Nov 2009

As shoppers everywhere head online looking for great holiday deals, Internet security companies are urging consumers to educate themselves on the basics of online shopping safety.

“Just as we encourage people to be careful as they’re shopping in a shopping mall or crowded store, everyone should take appropriate steps to protect themselves while shopping online,” said Lloyd Borrett, Marketing Manager, AVG (AU/NZ).

“Simple steps, like looking for the 'secure site' padlock on your browser page when purchasing, or making sure you’re buying from a reputable company, can prevent potential headaches down the road.”

Some tips offered by AVG for online shopping security:

1. Look for the “S” for security. Make sure the Web sites you are shopping from are secure and have “https” in the URL when you are in their checkout/purchase process. The “s” ensures security. When you are in the secure section of a Web site, you will also see an icon for a locked padlock on your browser, either on the address bar or on the bottom right corner. Additionally, use the Internet to research online retailers not familiar to you.

2. Stay current on security software. This means making sure you have the latest virus protection software updates from your security software provider. Security software companies are working to stay one step ahead of them. If you are updated, you are staying one step ahead, too.

3. Think before you link. Employ a URL scanning tool to ensure you will be warned if you click on links that lead to infected Web pages. The time to find out whether a page is bad is BEFORE you load it into your Web browser.

4. Keep your private information private. When shopping online, create a separate e-mail account that is just for shopping. Use a unique password, different from any other accounts you have. Your dedicated shopping e-mail account should be in no way affiliated with your personal, everyday e-mail account. Also, keep records of your online shopping — print confirmation pages and e-mail confirmations.

5. Mix up your passwords. Each shopping account, bank account, credit card account, and e-mail account should have a unique password. Write them down and keep the information in a secure location. Unique passwords for each account make it tougher for a thief to steal your personal information.

Security company Bit Defender are also urging shoppers to exerceise caution when purchasing online.

“The holiday season means taking advantage of the many benefits of online shopping like competitive pricing and freebies like zero shipping fees and free gift wrapping,” said Catalin Cosoi, BitDefender’s senior anti-spam researcher.

“However, consumers should be extra vigilant in protecting their personal information and their PC in the lead up to Christmas and the New Year.”

BitDefender have the following tips to offer for safe online shopping.Know where you’re shopping and read the fine print.

Not every Website and online shop is a safe and reputable merchant. The truth is that many online criminals are skilled at crafting very convincing, legitimate-looking online shopping sites. Be very careful who you purchase from.

If the merchant wants more than your name and email address in order to cash in that coupon, beware. A common phishing tactic targeting online shoppers utilises online promotions and sales to entice a consumer to enter personal information in order to receive coupons or other merchandise. While many reputable sites offer coupons or samples, they will never ask for excessive amounts of personal information to redeem them. Most only require a name and email address.

Additionally:

To avoid hackers who use ‘typo-squatted’ domains to lure unsuspecting consumers into entering their personal information, check that the Web address you have entered or landed on has correct spelling.

Be wary of ‘great gift’ or ‘special offer’ emails and newsletters from Web sites that you do not subscribe to. They are likely to be fake and should be avoided.

Check for the presence of security seals on the shopping sites you frequent, in order to help determine their authenticity.

Consider alternative forms of payment, such as Paypal, or add purchase insurance from a reputable third-party to your order.

For an in-depth guide to safe shopping online check out the feature in the January issue of NetGuide, on sale Monday, December 14th.

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