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Tips for safe online holiday shopping

Catalin Cosoi | Dec. 11, 2009
What every savvy shopper in pursuit of online deals should know before entering a credit card number

Its that time of year again. Christmas is just around the corner, the holidays are coming up, and its time to shop! As a senior anti-spam researcher at BitDefender, an award-winning provider of innovative anti-malware security solutions, I am happy to offer you some simple tips from BitDefender, to help consumers protect themselves from online scammers this holiday season.

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

Know where youre 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 e-mail address in order to cash in that coupon, beware. A common phishing tactic targeting online shoppers uses 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 e-mail address.

Additionally:

•         Always shop from a secure PC with a trusted security suite installed. Most security suites now have anti-spam and anti-phishing features to guard against unwanted threats.

•         Try to shop from well-known and trusted sites.

•         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 the correct spelling.

•         Be wary of great gift or special offer e-mails and newsletters from websites 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.

•         Make sure that the connection to the website begins with an http:// or https:// header.

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

Catalin Cosoi is working for BitDefender, as a senior researcher in the anti-spam and anti-phishing laboratory (trying to find new ways to fight spam), but he is also very passionate about neural networks, brain models, pattern recognition and pattern extraction technologies, mathematics of neural systems and recently… search engines (working on one for his PhD project).  

 

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