Extra: Online shopping safety - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings Extra: Online shopping safety

WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Each year more people are logging on to do their holiday shopping, and a few simple steps can safeguard your personal information.

Here's our Top Ten tips for safe online shopping.

1. Check for safety symbols.

Before you enter any personal informatio, check for one or more of these features.

  • Look for the picture of the unbroken key or closed lock in your browser window. Either one indicates that the security is operative. A broken key or any open lock indicates it is not.
  • Look to see if the web address on the page that asks for your credit card information begins with "https:" instead of "http."
  • Some web sites use the words "Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)" or a pop up box that says you are entering a secure area.
  • 2. Use different passwords.

    You should use a different password for each company you use. Also, use a complex password that includes both numbers and letters.

    3. Use a credit card instead of a debit card.

    It's easier to get refunds for fraudulent purchases on a credit card than it is to recover money withdrawn from your bank account. Also, try to only use one card instead of several different ones for online purchases so unusual purchases are easier to notice.

    4. Look at statements closely.

    Look at each purchase on your statements. Compare the amount and address to your receipts. If anything looks unusual, notify your bank immediately.

    5. Use a secure connection.

    Don't use a public hotspot like a coffee shop or public building to do online shopping. Instead use a hardwired connection to your computer, or a password protected wireless network.

    6. Keep anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewalls active.

    Keep your safety software active and up to date to prevent anyone from accessing personal information on your computer.

    7. Read the privacy policy.

    Carefully read the company's privacy policy to see if they are sharing your information with a third party. Sometimes you have the choice to opt out of sharing information.

    8. Check the returns and exchange policy.

    Aside from custom-made items, most companies should allow returns and exchanges. If a company does not, it might be a good idea to investigate why they don't offer that option.

    9. Don't store credit card information.

    Many sites offer the option to store credit card information so you don't have to enter it before each purchase. While this makes things easier during checkout, the safer option is to have the company delete the information each time and re-enter it yourself.

    10. Follow your instincts.

    If you're unsure about a company, go with your gut. If it's a store or site that you are unfamiliar with, look for contact information and make sure you can communicate with the company either via phone or e-mail.

    Online Reporter: Jenn Jarvis

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