Staying safe while online shopping this holiday season

As more people turn to shopping for holiday gifts online and with apps, they face a greater risk of identity theft. But experts say now you can master the art of safe online shopping.

More and more, shopping habits are migrating from in-store to online. Information Systems Technology Associate Professor Belle Woodward says buyers now need to be wary of identity theft.

"The more you shop, the more your information is out there, the more vulnerable you are,” said Belle Woodward, an Associate Professor of Information Systems Technology at Southern Illinois University.

And with the busiest shopping days of the year approaching, Woodward says there are easy things you can do to make sure you’re buying gifts for a steal, instead of having someone steal your identity.

"Make sure that the URL reads HTTPS,” Woodward says, pointing to the top of the screen before the website name is listed. That ‘S’ stands for secure, but that’s not the only thing to look for in the URL, she says.

"At the right of that hypertext, you see a lock and it changes colors," Woodward said.

That lock shows your information is locked down and protected. But Woodward says don’t take unnecessary chances online by following strange links or saving your information on sites. She says that makes it very easy for hackers in the know to swipe your info.

She recommends freezing your credit if you’re concerned, that way you can keep shopping while others are blocked from using your information unless they have your credit freeze code. 

"They will not be able to unless you provide the security code to unfreeze your credit," she said.

Above all else, trust your gut. If something seems off, log off.

Experts say if your identity does wind up getting stolen, report the charges immediately to the police, the FTC and to your credit card company. For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commission website here for to report identity theft and what you can do to prevent it.

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