Tips: Shop Safely Online

They are watching you. They are watching and they are waiting for you to make a mistake -- they are identity thieves. The Internet is a popular place to have your identity stolen and then sold across the world; and this holiday more shoppers will go online and may purchase more than ever before.

More than nine million Americans have their identity stolen each year. The FTC reports that in 2007, the highest category of complaints was identity theft, attributing 32 percent of total complaints received to the category. Consumers reported fraud losses totaling more than $1.2 billion, almost double that of 2005.

Shopping online safely helps you prevent identity theft.

"Adults teach us to 'look both ways before crossing the street,' but not 'don't give out your Social Security Number' or, 'make sure your password contains a number,'" said Todd Feinman, CEO of Identity Finder.

Identity Finder here provides the Dos and Don'ts of security tips to prevent identity theft while online shopping this holiday season.

1. Shop From Your Terminal. Do shop online using your own computer. Don't shop online using a public computer at a hotel or airport.

2. Verify Secure Connections. Do make sure the padlock symbol in your browser's status bar shows that you have a secure SSL connection when shopping online. Don't press submit if there is no padlock at a store.

3. Use Onetime Credit Cards. Do shop online using a virtual credit card that expires after one use. Don't use your actual credit card numbers on less familiar Web sites.

4. Create Complex Passwords. Do mix letter cases and use at least seven characters when placing an order online and saving a password. Don't choose a word from a dictionary. Passwords are guessed very quickly by hacker programs.

5. Lock Up Your Passwords -- Do use a secure password manager to save all your passwords. Don't save passwords in your web browser without a master password to protect them.

6. Avoid Phishing Attacks. Do go directly to a store's website by typing its address into your web browser manually if you plan to buy something; Don't click on links from an email message.

7. Clean Your Address Book. Do be very cautious who you add to your e-mail address book because trusted contacts can include Web links in their messages. Don't add community addresses from eBay or Amazon because they are frequently spoofed and send you links to phishing Web sites.

8. Communicate Securely. Do call a business and read them your credit card information, if you trust them and want to buy a present for someone. Don't e-mail or instant message personal information.

9. Download Updates. Do click "Update Now" when you receive security updates from Microsoft, Apple and Adobe. Don't avoid these updates that arm you with the latest fixes before starting to shop.

10. Check Your Credit. Do visit annualcreditreport.com before and after the holidays. Don't wait until you receive a bill for a credit card that isn't really yours.

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