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5 online shopping tips to protect your money this holiday season

online shopping
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Holiday shopping is upon us, and you’re probably working through your holiday budget, checking items off your gifting list + scouting out holiday sales. Since we can now buy anything and everything online, it’s a good idea to be aware of ways to protect yourself (and your hard-earned money) while shopping online this season. 

Here are 5 online holiday shopping tips from United Community Bank:

Stay with the brands you know.

If you don’t have a particular merchant in mind, Google can be a great place to start. But simply having a website does not mean a company is reputable. When using search engines, look at the spelling and grammar on the merchant’s website. Common misspellings and poor grammar are all red flags. Also, avoid websites with country-specific domains unless you are specifically shopping for overseas goods. Online reviews can be a great resource, but keep in mind not all positive “testimonials” may be legitimate. Be cautious of a large number of overly positive reviews which occur within a short time frame and then suddenly stop.

Look for the lock to indicate a security-enabled site.

Protecting yourself online is all about knowing what to look for. Never buy anything online from a site that doesn’t have Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption. You will know if the site has SSL because the URL begins with ‘https’, rather than ‘http’. The ‘s’ at the end indicates the site is secure. If you see a padlock symbol displayed in the website address bar, it also indicates that the site is encrypted.

Do not tell-all. 

Avoid the ho-ho uh-oh by being careful to not share more information than is needed. No online shopping site needs your social security number or birthday to complete a transaction. Avoid sending your credit or debit card details to anyone via email. Although more convenient for repeat purchases, it is worth unchecking any option in your purchase process that allows the retailer to store your card details.

Keep your computer or mobile device up to date. 

Make sure to run anti-virus and malware scans regularly. Check for updates to your operating system and ensure apps and browsers are kept up to date with the latest version. Continually update and always use strong, unique passwords for each online store where you make purchases. If you haven’t changed your password for an existing account in some time, pre-holiday shopping is the perfect time to do so.

Make sure your payment methods include buyer protections.

With the enhanced security features available today with your United Community debit card, you have access to added layers of protection such as 3D Secure authentication or Zero Liability Protection. You can also regularly check your account history, set up security alerts and even lock or unlock your debit card with United’s Card Controls feature. 

Keep the holidays merry and bright, and take a proactive approach in deterring fraud on your account before hitting the check-out button. (Looking for more advice? See tips for holiday budgeting and holiday spending.)