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Shopping online is now easier than ever. It seems that practically all retailers have some form of an online store ready to show and sell their wares. From PCs to tablets to smart phones, we’re able to lean back and browse in comfort. But this shopping bonanza also presents a field of opportunity to cybercriminals. When you’re ready to buy, they may be poised to steal. Before you give up on the great deals online, here are some tips for online shopping to help keep you (and your finances) safe when you fire up the Internet.

Make sure the online checkout is secure – When you add an item to an online store’s checkout, you should be taken to a secure page. This allows you to enter your payment information with SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption. You can find this in the site’s web address. Look for “https” at the beginning of the URL. This is the same encryption that many banks use. You can also check for verification by clicking on a security certification seal, like the Norton Secured Seal. These certificates are more than just images; they allow you to click on them and verify the site’s security in real time.

Be wary of unknown sites – High-profile ecommerce sites know the value of ensuring their site security is top notch. They also have the funding to insure their site maintenance remains safe. Anyone can set up an Internet site today, but that doesn’t mean it’s secure and safe.

If you’re thinking about buying from an unknown retailer, do a sanity check first. Search for reviews on the retailer. Are there any? Are they positive? If so, look for the security signs discussed above. If you see none, it could be the site’s designer doesn’t know what he’s doing (someone’s 12-year-son, perhaps?). Or worse—it’s a criminal who knows exactly what they are doing. Either way, point your browser elsewhere—fast.

Keep your antivirus software up to date – What does malware have to do with online shopping? Maybe plenty if you’re infected with a “key-logger.” This insidious software can record every keystroke and secretly send back information to the cybercriminals who made it. This includes any credit card or other payment information you’ve entered into the most secure shopping sites.

Can a secure site prevent this from happening? No. The malware is on your computer. Make sure you have active security software installed to detect it, or better yet, prevent it from being installed in the first place. Most computers come with a trial version of antivirus software and may require an annual renewal. Check the expiration date and renew or purchase a different antivirus software program before shopping.

Want to help ensure you stay safe online? There are many companies who offer several layers of defense to prevent cybercriminals from infecting your PC with malware or luring you and your credit card into an unsafe site. These safeguards help keep you and your family secure while you’re shopping online or just enjoying the Internet. Do your homework and decide which company offers the best program for you and your family’s needs.

Change your passwords- Change your passwords on a regular basis to help protect your online life. Make passwords complicated (not your last name with 1234 at the end). Change your passwords frequently, and don’t use the same password for everything.

Back up your data- Losing priceless family photos or important work would be devastating. To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, back information up to a portable hard drive or safe it to other locations, such as in the clouds or on a USB drive.

So before cyber Monday arrives, make sure you are prepared to surf the net safely. Allowing you to make those holiday purchases without the fear of having your identify stolen or your computer attacked by cyber bandits.