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By Ben Woolsey at CreditCardForum

When it comes to holiday shopping, most consumers are now taking their spending online for the ease and convenience it provides. With Cyber Monday quickly approaching, shoppers are already gearing up and researching Cyber Monday deals. The recent Rubicon Project Holiday Consumer Pulse Survey found that 73 percent of respondents plan to shop online this season, with 47 percent planning to shop on Cyber Monday.

Doing your holiday shopping from your couch while sipping your pumpkin spice latte is cozy and time-saving and prevents the hassle of waiting in those pesky, long Black Friday lines and fighting your way through over-crowded stores. However, shoppers do need to be aware of one thing in particular – online credit card fraud.

Criminals are more driven this year to take their fraud online due to the introduction of new chip technology. Now that chip-encrypted cards have made it much more difficult to duplicate and steal credit card information from in-store terminals, fraud has already begun to shift online.

With the most popular online shopping day of the year just around the corner, experts at CreditCardForum have created their own holiday tip list to help consumers navigate their online shopping safely, steering clear of cyber crooks.

Avoid certain payment methods

It’s always wise to use your credit card instead of your debit card, as it is much easier to dispute any false charges. One benefit all credit cards provide is the protection against unauthorized and fraudulent purchases. If you’ve ever had to dispute charges on a debit card, you know if can be a long and tedious process, often leaving you without any cash in your bank account for several weeks. Even if that loss is temporary, you may not have the funds to pay your bills on time.

Check your statements and set alerts

This is something every consumer should be doing throughout the year, but the holidays are a good time to ramp up on monitoring your accounts. Checking your credit card statements after purchases can nip any false activity quickly. Oftentimes, scammers who’ve stolen your information will test your card with small purchases to make sure it’s valid, and they typically do this not long after procuring your information.

Many credit card issuers will also allow you to sign up for transaction alerts that will notify you when a purchase has been made over a set amount, which basically does some of the monitoring for you. Some issuers will even let you tie in the location of your smartphone to your credit card. This way, if a purchase is made in Tampa, Fla., and you are in Chicago, that transaction will not process. It’s a great idea to call your credit card issuer and set these up ahead of your holiday shopping.

Look for http “s”

The “s” stands for secure and should appear on all web pages that require disclosing financial information. Ensure the site you are visiting is secure before purchasing by looking for the “https://” in the browser’s address bar before you provide your credit card information. If it’s not there, the site is not secure, and you should not continue with any transactions.

Public Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, libraries, airports and other public places are convenient, but often not secure. Online shoppers don’t realize that cyber thieves can grab their wireless data at Wi-Fi hotspots because the majority of these places don’t encrypt the information you send over the internet. If a network doesn’t require a password, it’s safe to assume it is not secure.

When using a hotspot, only log in to websites you know to be secure and be sure your entire visit is encrypted from the time you log in to when you log out. You can do this by looking for the "https" at the start of the URL address or look for the security padlock sign. Don’t stay permanently signed in to any accounts and never use the same password on different websites. Also, it’s a good idea to change the settings on your mobile devices so they don’t automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi.

Be careful of unfamiliar websites

Typosquatting is what happens when you mistype a website name. Scammers will set up fake domain names that are just a letter or two off from popular sites in anticipation that they will be able to prosper out of traffic from unintentional misspellings made by browsing shoppers. Those who normally type quickly and rely heavily on autocorrect are especially prone to becoming victims – this can result in Amazon becoming Amazone or Amazne. If you are unsure how to spell the name of a website, look for it by using a reputable search engine and double-check the URL to make sure you are in the right place. Bookmark the pages you visit most often to make navigating easier and less of a hassle.

Following these simple tips will help keep your information safe and ensure cyber thieves don’t have a happy holiday at your expense. 

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