Tips for safe online shopping

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By Jim Carr By Jim Carr

PHOENIX -- The busiest places for consumers may no longer be at the mall or at a store here in the Valley. Instead, more people than ever are finding deals on the Internet this holiday season.

Here are some tips to keep you from getting ripped off when you shop on the World Wide Web.

First, don't shop publicly. So called cyber-thieves are waiting for you to punch in sensitive information and if you're on Wi-Fi, where they just may be able to see it. Instead, use your computer at home to shop.

Next, you should always use a credit card for your purchases, not your debit card. Credit cards offer better protection compared to debit cards and if you're ripped off, your checking account won’t be cleaned out.

Speaking of credit cards, the next tip is to use disposable credit cards, also known as pre-paid cards, which you can load with money. Visa and American Express offer these services. Simply put a specific amount on the card, and once that amount is used, the card is worthless unless you load it again.

Also be sure to verify the website you think you're on. Usually, safe and secure websites have a padlock icon in the lower right corner of the screen letting you know you're information is secure. If you don't see a padlock, use caution. The URL also should start with https rather than http.
     
Finally, some website like Amazon allow you to save your credit-card information to make your shopping easier if you return to that site. However, consumer advocates say you probably shouldn’t do that just in case the site is breached.