Sheriff Jay Koon

Can you feel it? We’re right in the middle of the holiday shopping season. Stores everywhere have really gotten busy in the previous two weeks as everyone seeks out the perfect gifts for their loved ones. As intense as the retail scene will be at your favorite stores and shopping centers, there are thousands of people who will take care of their Christmas shopping without ever leaving home. They’ll make their purchases online.

Just as there are steps to protect yourself when out shopping, there are also steps you should take to protect yourself when buying items online.

Tech-savvy criminals are anonymous and can do great harm. The sheer size of the Internet and number of users makes it impossible for one agency to monitor and prevent every scam and criminal on the Internet. Thus, the responsibility falls on individuals to protect themselves.

Protect your $$ – When shopping, check to be sure the site is security enabled. Look for web addresses with https:// indicating extra measures to help secure your information.

Keep your computer and mobile device systems up to date – Cyber criminals will use software flaws to attack the systems on your devices. By updating software programs regularly, you can stay ahead of the criminals who exploit flaws in older systems.

Choose a strong password and protect it – A strong password is at least eight characters and contains both numbers and letters. Using the same username and password for multiple sites puts you at higher risk of having your password hacked. Change your password every 90 days to limit the window of opportunity for criminals to gain access.

Protect your personal info – Most online sites now require us to share personal information such as name, address, phone number and email address. When in doubt about supplying this information, either don’t do it or call the retailer to verify authenticity.

Use safe payment options –Credit cards are generally the safest option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered.

When you take these basic cyber-security precautions, it’s always much easier to enjoy the conveniences of technology with peace of mind while you shop online.