Safe and Smart Online Shopping

on Monday, 08 December 2014. Posted in TLC Blog

Online Shopping is one of the fastest, easiest, and most convienent ways to get your holiday shopping done without having to battle the crowds in the shopping malls.  We have told you some of the best places to go to get your shopping done, now we are going to tell you how you can do so in the safest manner possible.  These are not only tips that will help you with your holiday shopping, but for any online shopping that you do at any time of the year.

Use Familiar Sites

- Be sure to visit an online retailer that you trust and continue to use trusted retail sites to fufill your shopping needs.  Amazon is always a great place to start because they sell a vast amount of items that could suit all ages and interests.  If you like a certain store, such as Target or Walmart, you can visit their websites to purchase your items, as most major retail chains have their own websites where consumers can shop. 

Always look for retail sites with .com at the end-  If the end uses a different domain, it may be a trap to steal your personal information.  Also watch for misspellings.  If something looks wierd, it probably is.

- Always do your comparison shopping and compare the deals that are being offered by different online retailers just like you would if you went to the store.  Use the same shopping methods that you always have.  

- Read site reviews and seller ratings. Make sure that the site is viewed positively by other consumers and that outside sellers have positive reputations.  Online shopping can be risky because you are unable to physically see or handle an item prior to purchasing it. Do your best to make sure the item you are getting is coming from a reliable source and will be worth the money that you are paying for it.

Watch for the Lock/Https

- If a site is unsecure- meaning you don't see a lock or https at the beginning of the site address, don't provide them with your credit card information.


- NEVER provide ANYONE with your credit card information via E-mail.  This is how a lot of cyber criminals gain access to your information because they disguise themselves as representatives from legitimate companies.  An e-mail truly coming from an online retailer will ask you to log in to your secure account before you provide them with any information.

Use the Best Card

You don't always have to give your actual credit card information to an online retailer, there are other cards or methods of payment that you can use that are safer and may ease your mind.

- One time use or re-fillable credit cards
- Gift cards specific to the retailer
- Paypal 

Don't Give More than Necessary

-Only provide a site with a minimum amount of personal information.  An online retailer does not need to know things such as your social securtiy number or birthday to process your credit or bank card for a purchase.  Make it a rule that if a store doesn't need it, neither does an online store.  

- Also, don't give this information when setting up an account with an online retailer, and don't provide it in an email.  There is never a time when this informtation will be needed by them!

Keep a Close Eye on Credit Card/Bank Statements

- View your electronic statements regularly for any cards you use and check for suspicious charges. If you see anything you don't recognize, take appropriate action immediately.  If a card was hacked, the company or your bank will likely be able to issue you a new one and help you resolve the charges.  If an honest mistake was made by a trusted retailer (which does happen..I can say first hand), watch to make sure that they credit your money in a timely manner.  

- Keep organized records.  Never throw away any receipts, transaction records, confirmation e-mails, or anything that you can use as a proof of purchase.  This will help you spot suspicious charges faster and will help you keep better track of the money that you actually spent, which is also important.   

Protect Your PC

-Make sure you keep up-to-date anti-virus software on your computer at all times, especially if you do a lot of online shopping.  This will help protect your computer from viruses that could both harm the system and make it more vulnerable to cyber criminals.  

- Be careful when shopping or sending personal information on a smartphone or portable device.  Even though some are beginning to offer virus protection software, these devices are still more suseptible to malicious software that can steal your information.

-Regardless of what kind of device you are using, make sure that it is password protected at the very least.  If it isn't, that leaves the door open for anyone to access your online accounts, especially if you have it set up to remember your login information.  This is one of the easiest ways for cyber criminals to get a hold of your information.


The most important aspect of any online account or profile that you have is the password that is used to secure it.  Using complicated passwords may seem like a real pain, but they are the most secure and the best kind to use.  Anyone who comes in to the TLC on a regular basis can tell you that we constantly stress the importance of secure passwords to our patrons because we want to keep you as safe as possible.  Here are a few of the tips that we offer.

-Use strong passwords, especially on sites that have access to any of your personal information.  A truly strong password is at least 8-10 characters long and has a unique combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.  

- Complicated passwords don't necessarily have to be difficult to remember.  You can create a password that is meaningful to you but would be a challenge for someone to steal.  The picture below shows you some fun ways to do this.  

- Never use the exact same password for every account that you have.  If a cyber criminal is able to get a hold of this, they now have access to all of your accounts and information.  

- Try not to use obvious things for passwords like your initials or birthday, unless you want to follow the steps in the picture and do so in a unique fashion.  These types of passwords are the first things that hackers are going to try.  

- Be sure to change your passwords every 6 months or so, and change them IMMEDIATELY if you think your account may have been hacked.  

- If you write your passwords down, keep them in a safe and relatively hidden location.  Don't

- NEVER share your passwords, but make sure that at least one other person knows how to find your passwords in case they ever need to access your accounts for you if you are unable to do so.  

Update Browsers

With each new update available for an internet browser comes an increase in security.  Older browsers may not work properly and are not as secure, making it easier for a hacker to access your information.  Here is how you can update each internet browser and be sure that you are always running the most up-to-date version.

-Internet Explorer will update automatically when windows updates are being performed.  As long as you are regularly keeping up with your windows updates, you should never have to worry about using an outdated version of this web browser.  

-To check for updates on Google Chrome, you go to the menu in the top right hand corner of the screen (it looks like 3 stacked lines) and select "About Google Chrome" from the list.  Clicking on that will prompt an automatic check for updates.   If any are available, a clickable icon will appear that will begin the update process.

Google Chrome

- To check for updates on Mozilla Firefox, go to the menu in the top right hand corner of the screen (it also looks like 3 stacked lines) and click on the question mark icon at the bottom, which will bring up the help menu.  From here, click on "About Firefox."  This will prompt an automatic check for updates.  If any are available, a clickable icon will appear that will begin the process.  

Mozilla Firefox

If it Looks too Good to be True... It Probably is!

There are lots of great deals and coupons out there that are available for consumers to take advantage many, in fact, that a lot of hackers and cyber criminals use these deals as a disguise for online scams.  There are several "red flags" to watch out for when trying to decide if you are looking at a legitimate deal or not.

- Pop-ups!  These can be very dangerous!  If something pops up on your screen while you are searching a web site and tells you that an item is 90% off with the attached coupon, or tells you that you have a won a prize that needs to be claimed, these are almost certainly scams that are looking to steal your personal information.  NEVER click on a pop-up like this! Trust me... you didn't win $1000 dollars and you can't get an iPad for $ least not this way.

-E-mails/Social Media.  Don't believe everything you see on the internet!!!!  A lot of scams are sent to people through e-mail and social media and more often than not, the sender doesn't even know it!   Sometimes, just clicking on these scams is enough to give your computer a virus or give a hacker access to your computer!  It can be hard to tell sometimes, but if something looks suspicious, err on the side of caution and delete it!

- If you have begun a transaction on a site and suddenly feel uncomfortable, stop what you're doing and exit the page!  Even if it looks like you're missing out on something great, you probably aren't, and the risk is not worth it!  

-  If a site looks outdated and is riddled with pop-ups, exit immediately!  It is not even worth your time to explore these sites in depth because they could be dangerous to your computer!  

We truly hope that you found these tips to be helpful and that they will guide you to having many safe and productive online shopping trips!  Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!  


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