Ten cyber shopping tips

Safeguarding one’s online identity is even easier this holiday season with the addition of new mobile and iPad applications that allow you to check your balances while on the go. And it is also important to take advantage of real-time account alerts, where available, which will alert your phone or email account as transactions occur.

Huntington developed the following tips consumers can follow to help protect their identity while shopping online this holiday season.

1. Check your accounts daily to confirm online activity and to check for any activity you did not initiate. This is especially important during the holiday season. Contact your bank or credit card provider immediately if you notice any unusual activity.

2. Do business with companies you know and trust. Research a company before revealing personal or financial information online. Confirm an online seller’s physical address and phone number in case you need to get in touch with them. If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for financial information, don’t reply or click on the link. Legitimate companies don’t ask for this information via email or pop-ups.

3. Watch out for fake “look-alike” sites. Some con artists disguise their website as a well-known company’s site. Check your browser’s address bar to make sure you’re always using the correct website address. If the website seems suspicious, leave it immediately and call the company.

4. Check a company’s privacy policy before doing business with it. A company should allow you to know what personal information its website is collecting, why and how it will be used. If you can’t find a privacy policy – or if you can’t understand it – consider another site that’s more security-conscious and accommodating to customers.

5. Only provide personal information if you’re on a secure website. Once logged in, ensure the web address starts with “https” (“s” means it’s secure). For added safety, check for a site certificate before submitting information. Confirm the owner by clicking on the padlock icon at the bottom of most browsers. You should see the owner and site address, which should match the website address at the top of the page. If they do not match, it may be a fraudulent site and you should not enter personal data.

6. Never respond to emails asking you to “confirm” recent transactions after you shop. These likely are “phishing” scams sent to lure private information from you.

7. Maintain a transaction trail, either paper or electronic. Save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online confirmation/receipt, and copies of any email(s) you exchange with the seller.

8. Do not share your passwords with anyone and never provide your social security number, birth date or mother’s maiden name in an email.

9. Make sure all of your security software is up-to-date before you do your online shopping. That includes anti-virus software, anti-spyware and firewalls.

10. Consider using a separate email account for your online shopping. You can set up a free email account online through several different services.

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