Thinking about doing your holiday shopping online this year?  Well, you’re not by yourself.  According to the popular site,, an estimated $123.4 billion dollars will be spent online for the 2018 holiday season!  This means more than ever you must be careful about how you’re shopping online and make sure you are aware of online scams, as well as safety habits.

Here are some online safety tips to follow as you’re shopping online this holiday season:

Whether it’s to avoid the crush of Black Friday or just for the simple convenience, more and more consumers are turning to online shopping to meet their gift-giving needs. Here are some tips to stay safe while navigating the cyber shopping malls.

Shop from a secure computer and secure connection.
Be sure your operating system (OS), browsers, and antivirus/anti-malware suite are up to date with the most current patches. When accessing a store’s website, be sure to check whether it is HTTPS so that your transactions are encrypted.

If you’re on your mobile device, be sure you’re using a secure Wi-Fi connection. In short, don’t shop while sipping your latte at Starbucks.

Use trusted vendors and their apps, rather than a link.
Hackers have become very adept at spoofing vendor web pages. Always shop with trusted vendors and type in the web address whenever possible instead of following a link.

If you’re on your phone, download the vendor’s app from Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store, and use the app instead of a link out to a browser window.

Don’t fall for “too-good-to-be-true” deals.
Watch out especially for email and text messages promising fantastic savings during the holiday rush. For every legit ad, there are a plethora of fake ads laced with malware or other cyber crippling attacks. Avoid clicking on ad links. Go to the site directly.

Plan ahead and don’t be rushed.
Last-minute shopping often leads to absent-minded clicking. Take your time to make sure you are on the correct website, especially before entering any credit card or banking information. It only takes one wrong click to activate a malicious code on a webpage.

Review credit card and bank statement regularly during the shopping season.
Infected credit card readers, unscrupulous cashiers, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) and Man-in-the-Middle attacks can gain access to your credit card information and sell it to the highest bidder. It’s a best practice to review your statements regularly. If you find a discrepancy, contact your bank or card issuer immediately.

If you’re using your bank app on your mobile device, be sure it is up-to-date with necessary security patches and that you only access the app on a secure connection. DON’T use public Wi-Fi – transactions submitted on unsecured Wi-Fi pretty much travel across thin air with no encryption. Which means any script kiddie can pluck your data by eavesdropping on your public Wi-Fi connection.

Use unique passwords and login information for every site you visit.
Tedious? Yes. Worth it? Yes, in the long run. Because if your login credentials are stolen for one site, a cybercrook will more than likely try using it on other websites. If they’re all the same, that crook now has access to your Target, Walmart, Amazon, and Twitter accounts. If you have registered a credit card or one-click shopping with any of those accounts, the cybercrook can go to town maxing out your limits. Then, they can tweet about all their cool purchases bought using your account.

Passwords should never be reused, recycled, or words found in a dictionary… even the urban dictionary. It is best to use a “passphrase” of at least 9 to 11 characters long. The longer the better. It should also contain a mix of upper- and lowercase characters, numbers, punctuation, and symbols that do not spell out a particular word. If you have trouble handling them all, use a password manager. Most password managers also have a “generate password” function to help you come up with unique ones.

Remember you to keep yourself protected with your FES Protection Plan so that you don’t experience any of this during the holiday season.