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Hectic holidays heavenly for hackers

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Ahhh, it’s that time of the year again: the hustle and bustle of the holiday season—parties, gift giving, travels and get togethers with friends and family. But it also brings up the question of how and when are you going to have time to shop and get everything done in time?—let alone fight those crowds at the mall for that elusive parking space.

With online shopping, not only can you shop any time of day (or night if you’re like me and a night owl), from the comfort of your couch or recliner and can easily compare prices without walking up and down the mall or driving all over town. You can even get things online that you simply just can’t buy locally. But while online shopping provides you with a high level of convenience, it also provides cybercriminals with opportunities to steal your money and information through various online scams.

That’s why as Black Friday and Cyber Monday (which has become one of the biggest online shopping days of the year) approaches, you need to make sure you’re being smart when shopping online. Besides making yourself familiar with the 12 Scams of the Holidays, here’s some tips to stay safe online:

Be wary of deals. Like Mom said, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is”. Any offer you see online that has an unbelievable price shouldn’t be believable. I saw a 25-foot camper on Craigslist for 10% of the list price, and it was within 10 miles of me. My endorphins rushed and I was filled with excitement—I wanted it! Then I found out it needed to be shipped from Chicago (I live in Boston) and I calmed down. But I can see how when a person’s endorphins peak, hasty decisions can ensue.

Use credit cards and not debit cards. If the site turns out to be fraudulent, your credit card company will usually reimburse you for the purchase; and in the case of credit card fraud, the law should protect you. Some credit card companies even offer extended warranties on purchases. With debit cards, it can be more difficult to get your money back and you don’t want your account to be drained while you’re sorting things out with your bank. Even better is a one-time-use credit card, which includes a randomly generated number that can only be used for a single transaction. While this may be an extra step in your shopping process, it can go a long way to protecting yourself online and it’s a good way to #HackYourLife.

Beware of fake websites. When searching for a product online, you are likely to end up clicking on something within the first few pages of your search results. Cybercriminals often setup up fakes sites that look real at URLs that are common misspellings or typos of well-known shopping sites (also known as typosquatting).Instead of typing in the URL of your favorite site, make sure you have a safe search plug-in installed on your browser, like McAfee® SiteAdvisor®, and search for that site. SiteAdvisor will then give you color-coded safety ratings in your browser search results and give you a warning before going to sites that are known to be malicious.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Expert to McAfee. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Mobile was Hacked! Disclosures.

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