Thanksgiving has arrived, the holiday shopping season has begun and while many people will inevitably be heading to the stores for Black Friday deals, an increasing number will be looking for online bargains.

Cyber Monday was created by marketing companies to persuade people to shop online and occurs on the Monday following Thanksgiving. It has quickly become one of the biggest online shopping days of the year and as the shopping season continues, more of us will choose online shopping in order to avoid the crowds. Many just simply like the convenience of shopping in the comfort of their own home and with many retailers offering free shipping on purchases, that perfect gift may just be at your fingertips!

Whatever your reason for shopping online, we want to help you by providing a few simple online safety tips:

Keep track

Always monitor your transactions, especially this time of the year when you are using your credit cards more frequently. Check your spending history daily to ensure there isn’t any unusual activity on your accounts.

Pay with protection

When possible, use only credit cards with buyer protection terms that limit your liability for fraudulent activity. Avoid using debt cards unless your bank offers this coverage.

Look for the security icon before entering information

A security lock icon should always appear in the address bar of your Web browser to let you know that you are sending the information over an encrypted session. Before entering personal information or credit card information, make sure this is present.

Don’t shop from a public WiFi

The least secure connection to the Internet are in public facilities where WiFi connections are free. This access is often available at your local Starbucks and other retail locations. Cyber criminals thrive on the opportunity to steal information from these unsecured connections.

Strange sites

We’re all looking to find the best bargains, but make sure you’ve heard of the buyer before or do a quick Web search to see if anyone’s been scammed by them. There are many sites out there that are not reputable and will advertise one item while selling another. Many software scams happen through these sites as well where the user tries to purchase software, which ends up being an unlicensed copy or stolen software. If you are not familiar with a site, do your research to find out if a website is legitimate. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Email solicitations

Many retailers advertise through email, but sometimes spammers will advertise using trusted store logos and names. Make sure you are visiting the correct site when clicking on a link that resembles a trusted retailer. If there is any doubt, go directly to the retailer’s site instead of using the link.

Keep your machine up to date

Always have the latest security updates and patches installed on your computer. One of the most common ways that a virus can get onto your machine is by visiting a compromised website that’s missing security patches.

There are lots of good deals to be found online. Be sure to stay vigilant.

CNS would like to wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season. As a reminder, our offices will be closed on Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday. We will resume our regular hours of operation on Monday, December 1.

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