You long ago figured out how to beat the crowds and bumper-car parking lots by shopping online. Now you need to make sure you -- and your identity -- stay safe online. In the hustle and bustle of clicking the "buy now" button, you run a higher risk of identity theft. According to the Identity Fraud Survey Report conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research, 40 percent of all identity theft victims had their information misused while making an online purchase, compared to 13 percent for purchases made over the phone or through the mail. That doesn't mean online shopping isn't safe. It just means you need to be smart.
Top 5 ways to protect your identity while shopping online:
1. Protect your passwords
Never reveal your passwords to anyone--even your family and friends. It's sad but true that many cases of ID theft involve those closest to you.
2. Make sure your antivirus program is up-to-date
A current antivirus program, such as McAfee, will automatically update your PC against new threats.
3. Only shop on secure sites
You can tell if a site is secure if you see a closed padlock on the browser's status bar. In addition, the website's URL should change to "s-http" or "https" when you are asked to provide payment information.
4. Don't click the link
If you receive an e-mail advertising a great sale, don't click on the link in the e-mail unless you know and trust the retailer. Instead, type the URL and check the site for authenticity and credibility. Malicious links sent in e-mail are the No. 1 way for cyber crooks to insert Trojans and viruses on computers, including the kind that can steal your personal information--and you'll never even know it until it's too late.
5. Pay by credit card, not debit card
All credit cards come with specific consumer protection that is far superior to checking account debit cards. In addition, frequently monitor online your credit card and banking accounts to make sure only the items you have charged or purchased are listed.