It’s the season for online Christmas shopping, the UK passed £100 Billion in online spending over 6 years ago, with estimates now putting 2016 as the UK population spending online over £150 Billion!

While nearly all these of transactions are safe and secure, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of identity theft and online fraud.  For daily tips in the run up to Christmas, there is even the ‘Badvent Calendar‘, this Advent Calendar of Christmas Fraud will offer advice and tips on how to beat the fraudsters this Christmas.

Trust your instincts

In the same way you wouldn’t hand your credit card over to the person in the street selling handbags from a suitcase, you should trust your instincts when shopping online.  If the offers too good to be true, or the checkout process seems odd, trust your gut.  While it’s difficult to walk away from a great offer, handing out your details could leave you open for identity or credit card fraud.

Look for the lock symbol

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This indicates the connection between you and the website is secure.  This could still be faked if you are connected to an insecure network, which brings us on to the next tip…

Don’t shop on public WiFi

When you enter personal information on a public network, you can’t be sure there is a secure route between you and the website.  Especially in crowded locations like city coffee shops that run an open network for anyone to join, it’s possible for someone to ‘packet sniff’ the WiFi signals and listen in on the data you are sending or even show you fake versions of popular website like Amazon.

Type the website address in yourself

Following links, especially shortened ones like “t.co/1j2k3” from social media or emails mean you can’t be sure of which website you are visiting until you click on it.  A shop that’s given up on Twitter may not be checking their account to see if it’s been hacked.  If you follow the nefarious link you could be open to virus’s or identity theft.  There are also Link Expander tools which can check the link and show you where it will take you.

Check your credit card statement

Always use a credit card when shopping online, the card companies will reimburse you for fraudulent charges.  Their sophisticated fraud detection systems may detect the illegal transaction however it isn’t foolproof.  Check your statements regularly for any transactions you don’t recognise.

Have different passwords for each website

While this is difficult to manage there are many tools like LastPass and Keepass which can manage your passwords.  You can check online to see if your email address has been caught up in one of the many mass thefts of data from popular websites using the tool: https://haveibeenpwned.com/  Most of these sites keep your password encrypted, so although they may have been compromised the thieves don’t have you actual password, but this relies upon that company storing your password correctly.

Keep your computer up-to-date

Apple, Microsoft, Google and others have huge dedicated teams that identify security problems with their software and regularly provide updates for your computer to close this security gaps.  Having to wait 5 minutes for your computer to shut-down is a far less of an inconvenience than having your identity stolen.Not all software updates automatically.  For software that doesn’t you can often find an ‘Update Software’ link in the Help, About or File menu items in those

Not all software updates automatically.  For software that doesn’t you can often find an ‘Update Software’ link in the Help, About or File menu items in that software.

IT Services for business

Somerset Online Ltd also provide affordable security audits for local companies; check your business WiFi and network is secure, backups are encrypted, customer data is stored correctly and digital disaster planning (what would happen if your main computer crashed, your work laptop stolen etc.)