5 Tips for safe online shopping

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(BRIAN McGRORY) Christmas is almost here but are you ready for it? To cope with holiday shopping frenzy more consumers are going digital to avoid long lines and crowded malls. According to the 2011 Year End Holiday Online Shopping Survey by Visa , this year 80 percent of online shoppers started Christmas shopping in November. Over a third of these shoppers will use Visa Debit, Visa Credit or Visa Prepaid cards to shop online.
Curious about what everyone is buying? Topping the wish list are clothes, holiday accommodation and plane tickets. So while you’re busy searching and buying online, here are 5 easy tips to keep your transactions safe.

1.Choose your websites wisely
While browsing for Christmas gifts, the simplest thing you can do to protect yourself is to pick secure websites. Chances are you already know the ones you like – they are either ones you’ve visited before, well-known brands or ones you’re trying out on a recommendation from a friend. A simple tip is to check out the web address and if it has an ‘s’ at the end of ‘https’ it means it is secure and your personal information is protected. Everyone wants to feel safe as they shop online which is why legitimate businesses will have secure sites and work with banks and payment companies like Visa to offer an extra layer of protection. Identity authentication services such as Verified by Visa require a password before purchases can be made. All you need to do is register your card, either on your card-issuing bank’s site or during the checkout process at a participating website, and then you can shop knowing that you’re safe from unauthorized transactions on your card.

2. Going phishing
Christmas is a time when promotions are on the rise as retailers try to get the lion’s share of the money spent during the festive period. We all love a bargain and as we shop online a quarter of us click on direct e-marketing messages as a source of shopping information. Where there is an online bargain, sometimes there are also cyber criminals who are on the prowl to get your personal information. They’re sneaky so keep your wits about you. Often they imitate a legitimate business that they know you will trust and capture your personal information as you click through to the site and start making purchases. If anything seems odd about a site, don’t use it. If you’re trying out a new website, type it into a search engine and see what the reviews are. But be rest assured that if criminals do take hold of your details, shopping online with Visa Debit or Visa Credit card gives you added Zero Liability protection . Speak with your issuer to learn what sort of protection you’re provided and report any suspicious activity on your account as soon as possible.

3. Shopping on the go with Smartphones
Smartphones are fast becoming irreplaceable and are always with you wherever you travel. Not only are they great for keeping in touch with everyone as you plan your Christmas but they are also a great tool for shopping online. This holiday season 25% of consumers will use smartphones when engaging in their year-end shopping. Don’t forget that smart phones are really like a miniature computer in the palm of your hand so make sure when you whip out your handy helper that the software is up to date and you’re shopping on a secure site. Remember the tips above too, even when using your phone, you don’t want to get caught out by phony websites and scams.

4. Stay protected in hot-spots
With the holidays around the corner, multi-tasking becomes second nature. There are office projects to be closed and shopping lists to be ticked off. When you grab that breather in a coffee shop, make most of your time by browsing for gifts on your laptop or smart phone. But be careful about making purchases using wi-fi in public places. Some public hotspots don’t encrypt wireless data, leaving you open to the possibility of identity theft. . If you don’t feel confident about the place you are logging on from, bookmark and revisit the website to make your purchase when you are 100 percent sure the connection is secure.

5. Chat but don’t reveal
Many online stores have a virtual assistant who can quickly answer specific questions on an item that has caught your fancy. There’s nothing like personalized attention. Imagine trying to get that in a crowded mall in the midst of the holiday shopping frenzy! The only thing to watch-out for is to avoid exchanging card details using the instant messaging service. You wouldn’t walk into a store and start shouting out your card details and pin number, so don’t do it online either. Keep your personal information under wraps and reveal it only when the time is right: at checkout

Keeping secure online doesn’t have to be a chore, if you follow these simple steps you can ensure that your Christmas purchases are safe and you can spend more time singing festive songs than worrying if the presents will turn up!

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