Prevent season's thieving's

Rules to help you stay out of trouble while shopping online over the Christmas period

Online shopping has become an increasingly popular way to avoid the Christmas crowds BUT, with the increase in online shopping comes greater exposure to fraud. The key to protecting yourself is to take a few simple precautions which could save you a significant amount of pain.

Follow these simple rules to stay out of trouble:

Shop only on websites that you know and trust. Always remember the saying if it looks to good to be true it probably is. This expression is paramount when shopping online!

Keep good records. This is important in all aspects of your life and Internet shopping transactions are no different. Hold on to printouts of the web page describing the item you ordered, the price you're paying, any e-mail messages and the details of the person you are purchasing from.

Never share your passwords with anyone. This is standard practice for bank accounts and the same principles apply to the Internet. Also, make sure you use different passwords for different web sites.

Install the latest anti-virus software on your computer before shopping online. Once this software is installed it's important that you keep it up to date - this can be done by using the latest patches. Also ensure that you buy your anti-virus software from a reputable vendor, otherwise you may find your computer infected with the types of viruses you're trying to prevent!

Never buy anything from an unsolicited email. No matter how good the advertised price is, an unsolicited email is spam and it should be deleted. Buying from a spammer could cost you much more than the price of the product - it could place your identity in jeopardy.

Never provide personal details in an email. This includes details such as your driver's licence number, birth date or mother's maiden name. If an online store, or any other website for that matter, asks for this kind of information it should be a warning to you that the sender is up to no good.

Make sure the company is on a secure server.  Always complete this check before you provide credit card or bank account details online. Check whether the web address starts with "https" and look for a padlock icon at the bottom of the browser. By clicking on the icon and you should see the site address and it should match the web address at the top of the page. If they don't match, you may be at a fraudulent site.

Check your credit card and bank account regularly. By checking your accounts regularly (rather than waiting for the bill to come in) you can stop unapproved use of your credit cards.

Check your credit report regularly. It's also wise to check your credit report at regular intervals or after an online shopping spree. Any incorrect information on your credit report (such as applications for credit that haven't been made by you) may be a sign of identity thieves at work.

Turn off your computer when you have finished shopping. It is common for people to leave their computers on around the clock however, this opens the door for criminals to commit cyber crime.