Are you stressed, tired, and busy? You are not alone! Everyone is busy this time of year, and the last thing you need is the added stress of fraud this Christmas season.

If you are like the rest of us, you need that final gift or two now. Be careful, though – criminals will take advantage of your hurriedness. Here are some tips to protect yourself online as you try to check off the final names on your gift list!

1. Know thy retailer

Desperation as you hastily try to get that last-minute gift can get you into trouble. Avoid online retailers that offer the latest products at very steep discounts with little or no history. Newly established online shops may be out to sell you a knockoff product, or even take your money and never ship your item.

2. Check feedback

If you must use an unknown online retailer, check their history and reviews. A great place to start is simply searching for “[business name] complaints” in a search engine. Also, check out the Better Business Bureau’s database to do some research at https://www.bbb.org/en/us.

3. Guard your information

Be very careful with your personal information. Always be conscious of what information you are asked to provide to purchase a product. Consider checking out as a guest to avoid providing more information than necessary.

4. Pay safe

Concerned about card fraud? Pay smart. Never email or text an online shop your card number directly. Use an online shopping cart platform to handle all of the card processing – it protects you and the merchant. If the online shop says they do not have a shopping cart or third party payment processor, look elsewhere.

5. Avoid public Wi-Fi

Avoid using public Wi-Fi to do any online shopping. That Wi-Fi may be free and accessible, but it is just as accessible to online criminals who may be eavesdropping to get your personal information.

6. Look for the Lock

When entering personal information in on any site, make sure there is a lock visible in the web address bar. This ensures that any information sent from your device to the website is encrypted.

7. Watch website addresses

Expand shortened URL addresses by using this helpful site. It allows you to view the webpage before actually visiting it: http://www.expandurl.net/

8. If it seems too good to be true, it is!

Finally, remember this adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is. You can find a safer, more reliable deal elsewhere.

Be safe and shop smart!

Have a tip that I did not cover? Let me know you think in the comments below. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Posted by Elvis Huff

Elvis Huff worked as an officer and network administrator for 12 years with the Lebanon Police Department and has also served as an adjunct professor in information systems at Cumberland University. Read More »

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