Shopping online has become a huge success, and so has the fraud and other problems that go with it. What was once a very new idea has become almost the norm for many, as has the fear we have that comes with not knowing if the site we are visiting is secure and safe to use.

We don’t want to be the victim of the latest crop of cybercriminals, but how do we know how to shop online safely? Here are a few tips on how to be sure that when you travel online and use the payment gateway of your favorite online retailer, you know what you are getting into and do it safely.

Strong Brands Have Strong Security

One of the best rules of thumb when it comes to shopping online is to stick to the big-name brands that you know you can trust. These sites, such as the online giant Amazon, have invested big bucks into their online security systems. They use trusted vendors such as AltaPay to ensure that their sites are safe from hackers and other online criminals.

But watch carefully when you are heading to these sites. Because the well-known brands are so popular and so famous, criminals have been known to create fake sites, with email campaigns that will lure you to them. These phishing sites abound on the web and are often where emails may lead you. So, if in doubt, don’t follow that link and look at the URL at the top of the page to ensure that the site is what it seems to be.

Credit Cards vs Debit Cards

Even though many of us tend to think of our debit cards as being much the same as credit cards, they aren’t as secure. If shopping online, only use credit cards as they are insured for fraud.

If someone hacks your debit card pin, you are probably not going to be able to recoup the money lost. While with a credit card, they will investigate the fraud and most likely credit back your account.

Watch for the Padlock

Whenever you are considering paying online for something from a site you have not visited before, check out their URL and see if it has a little padlock next to the address. If the padlock is locked, and especially if the address begins with “https” then you know that the site is Netscape secured. This means that the financial side is encrypted for security.

Beware the Fabulous Offer

We have all seen these emails. You get an email about a great last minute sale from a website you have visited recently. They are offering you big deals, if you just follow this link and act fast. While there may be some companies with legitimate sales offers for you, be aware that a huge percentage of these are trolling for our information.

The site you go on may look right, but chances are it is fake and set up to take your billing information. If you think this is legitimate, go into the site on a new tab and see if that same sale is being offered. Best rule of thumb for all of this – When in doubt, don’t.