For those who think shopping
malls are scary places during the holiday season, the threats you can’t see
while shopping on the Internet can be far more prevalent. Online shopping is
predicted to increase by 25% this holiday season, according to Forrester
Research, including 2.5 million new households that will purchase online for
the first time. As the number of online purchases increases, so do the risks
of identity theft, spyware, viruses, worms and phishing. A recent survey by
Consumer Reports showed that users have a one in three chance of suffering
computer damage, financial loss or both because of computer viruses, spyware
or hackers. Yet many home computer users fail to take steps to protect
computers and their confidential information from these serious threats.
Households without adequate computer protection
are also at greater risk for crippling computer viruses, worms, hackers and
spyware that steal their personal information and slow PC performance, and
hackers, which are growing in number. In addition, there can be a greater
level of unsupervised Internet use by children during the holidays, which puts
not just computers, but families at risk. While these threats are present all
year, they are magnified at this time of year, and can be exacerbated by
friends and family members who may be visiting and using home computers in an
The next step is maintaining safe computing and online
shopping practices. We offers the following tips:
* Print copies of all online receipts to check against your credit card
bill, to prevent overcharges and duplicate charges. Also print copies
of any guarantees or warrantees for your files.
* Businesses and financial institutions will rarely send an e-mail asking
customers to reply directly with personal information. Users who
receive an official-looking e-mail requesting such information should
contact the business directly using an already established contact to
ensure that it is legitimate.
* When shopping online, the Trust-e symbol or a Better Business Bureau
online seal are good indications that the vendor has technology in place
to protect sensitive personal information.
* If a website is secure or using encryption to protect customers’
identities, it will begin with “https” instead of “http” in the browser
address field, and will display a padlock icon on the lower right hand
border of the browser window. Shoppers should make sure they are on a
secure or encrypted site before conducting a transaction online.
* Avoid using social security numbers online. See if the online vendor
can use other information; if not, submit this information to trusted
online vendors only.
that customer information will not be sold after your transaction has