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Protecting your personal information while shopping online this holiday season

NORFOLK, Va. - The holiday shopping season is upon us and more and more folks will be turning to the internet to do their shopping this year.

According to figures released by Adobe, more than $5 billion was spent online by the end of Black Friday 2016, marking a 17.7% increase over last year.

The National Retail Federation predicts an increase in online holiday shopping between seven and 10 percent over last year, which could translate to as much as $117 billion.

With so many folks turning to their computers to go shopping, the risk of personal information being compromised increases.

The National Cyber Security Alliance offers the following tips to protect yourself:

  • Lock down your login: One of the most critical things you can do in preparation for the online shopping season is to fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media.
  • Keep clean machines: Before searching for that perfect gift, be sure that all web-connected devices – including PCs, mobile phones, smartphones, and tablets – are free from malware and infections by running only the most current versions of software and apps.
  • Conduct research: When using a new website for your holiday purchases, read reviews and see if other customers have had a positive or negative experience with the site.
  • Get savvy about Wi-Fi hotspots: If you are out and about, limit the type of business you conduct over open public WiFi connections, including logging in to key accounts, such as email and banking. Adjust the security settings on your device to limit who can access your phone.
  • When in doubt, throw it out: Links in emails, posts and texts are often the ways cybercriminals try to steal your information or infect your devices.
  • Personal information is like money: value it and protect it: When making a purchase online, be alert to the kinds of information being collected to complete the transaction. Make sure you think it is necessary for the vendor to request that information. Remember that you only need to fill out required fields at checkout.