The following is a guest post.

After years of dealing with hostile Black Friday crowds, fighting with people over gaming systems, and long lines in the checkout counter, the majority of shoppers have turned to online shopping. Most consumers have made a purchase of some type online, and many continue to use the Internet for gift buying. Nothing feels as good as getting your Christmas shopping done from your comfy chair, without the stress of pushing through crowds of noisy people. While shopping online is definitely the most convenient way to get your gift buying done, there are also some safety risks to consider. A lot of identity theft is the result of people shopping online. Here are a few tips to make your online shopping experience safer and more enjoyable.

Avoid Shopping Through Search Engines

If your first shopping instinct is to simply Google the product you are looking for, you might want to switch up your strategy. Many hackers are rigging up websites and getting them indexed in major search engines. These websites are expertly designed and often look like professionally made retail sites. The whole point of the site is to get you to put in personal information such as your credit card number, name, and social security number. Once a hacker has this information it can be difficult to stop them from using it to make their own purchases. Try to stick to websites that you know are legitimate and have made purchases from in the past. If you want to try a new retailer, do a quick search to see if any reviews exist of the site. If you research the company and it comes up clean, you can probably proceed to shop with that retailer.

Check Credit Card Statements

One of the best ways to keep your online shopping experience a positive one is to keep a close eye on your credit card activity. A lot of people wait until they get their monthly statement to check their activity, but by then it could be too late. Someone could’ve already maxed your card and left you with the bill. Check your activity online every few days by logging into your account. If there are purchases on the card you didn’t make, contact the company immediately and cancel the card. Be aware of how much each of your purchases cost before completing the order. If the retailer has offered free shipping on most orders over $50+ sitewide, and you see a shipping charge on your order, this doesn’t mean you’re being scammed. Read all of the fine print on the order page to see if it falls into the free shipping category. This prevents you from being paranoid that your credit card number is being phished.

Don’t Shop on Public Computers

Individuals who do not have a computer, or are in between devices, should avoid making purchases on publicly used computers. You could forget to log off the computer, or someone could see you putting in personal information and gain access to the computer later on to steal that info. Always make sure to log all the way out of a public computer to ensure that no one has access to personal files or information.