Use these tips to make online shopping a safer experience

Published 11:54 pm Saturday, December 1, 2007

With Thanksgiving behind us, holiday shopping is now in full swing. However, more and more people are choosing to avoid crowded stores and jammed parking lots by doing an increasing portion of their holiday shopping online.

Last year, the week of Dec. 3 was the biggest week for online shopping. Dec. 12, a Tuesday, was the biggest single day.

Forrester Research reports that online holiday shopping last year generated approximately $27 billion in sales, and they predict a 21 percent increase in sales, to $33 billion, for 2007. 30.2 percent of consumers will do their shopping online this year compared to 28.9 percent in 2006.

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Here are some tips for safer online shopping:

Use only online sellers that you know and trust.

Make sure your PC has anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection. Keep this protection up-to-date.

Access online shopping sites by typing in the URL (web address) yourself, rather than clicking on a link in an e-mail.

Make sure that the Web site uses a secure server. The URL should begin with “https,” and there should be a padlock in the frame of your browser. Click on the padlock to display the seller’s security certificate.

Make your passwords harder to crack. Avoid using “real” words (those found in a dictionary), and use a combination of upper and lower case characters, numbers, symbols and special characters (if allowed by the seller’s system).

Never provide logon information in an e-mail. The seller’s Web site will store that information in their system when you register and should not need to ask for it again.

Never provide your Social Security number to an online shopping site. There is no reason for a seller to need that information.

Save a copy of the confirmation web page or e-mail when you order, and compare with your credit card account to make sure the transaction was processed correctly.

Use a credit card that offers fraud protection for making your online purchases.

Never, ever buy anything from an unsolicited e-mail (spam).

Ginga MacLaughlin is a certified public accountant, a certified information technology professional, and a certified information systems auditor with the accounting firm Silas Simmons, LLP in Natchez.