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How to protect yourself when online shopping

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Hand typing on a keyboard.(WHSV)
Published: Nov. 25, 2017 at 1:22 PM EST
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For the first time, more shoppers plan to buy online than in stores, but this is a prime time for scammers to steal your money and information.

As you prepare for Cyber Monday, be mindful of potential online shopping scams.

Here are some tips that can help you navigate holiday shopping without being hacked:

You should be careful when shopping on a mobile device such as your cellphone. It can be more difficult to spot fake websites because scammers create fake URLs that resemble legitimate retailers, according to Gang Wang. Wang is a cybersecurity expert and assistant professor at Virginia Tech.

"A better alternative is to use the merchants' native apps. Make sure you download the apps from the official app store. Don't install any apps from web links or code," Wang said.

On the other hand, you should carefully vet each app that you choose to download, especially the ones you give access to your personal and financial information.

Some fake apps have malware that can steal your personal information or lock the device until you pay a ransom, said cybersecurity company RiskIQ.

Take a look at the developer of the app to be safe. "Also, poor grammar in the description highlights the haste of development and the lack of marketing professionalism that are hallmarks of mobile malware campaigns," RiskIQ said in a report.

Avoid clicking on questionable email links. If an email comes to you unsolicited, don't open it. Phishing emails tend to look similar to those sent by popular retailers, banks or family members.

"The link may lead you to a bogus website that aims to lure you to enter your credit card information," Wang said.

Always use secure network connections. When on a website, look at the search bar for "HTTPS" with a lock symbol. This means it is a valid connection. If you see "HTTP," that means it is vulnerable to attacks.

Consumers should never give their credit card information unless they are in a secure online shopping portal. "Sites that ask for it in return for 'coupons' or to win 'free' merchandise are almost always scams," RiskIQ said.

Password security is a tried, but true practice. Consumers should always use difficult-to-guess passwords, different passwords on every account, two-factor authentication and password managers.

Password managers can help you keep track of the information for multiple different accounts.