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Safe online shopping: 10 tips to avoid getting burned

Here are 10 easy ways to ensure you're being as safe as possible when shopping online.

By Michael Homnick, PC World
December 10, 2012 12:50 PM ET

PC World - You need to buy some gifts. You need to buy them quickly. You can (a) brave the madness of holiday retail shopping at your local mall, rife with screaming children and airborne contagions, or (b) kick back at home and buy all your gifts online, accompanied by nothing more obnoxious than a warm cup of cocoaor a cold glass of wine.

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We'll take the online shopping option. We're civilized adults at PCWorld, and we're not interested in rubbing shoulders with rabid mall zombies unless we have to.

But the world of online shopping isn't all hot chocolate and chardonnay. Buying gifts via a Web browser certainly speeds up one's shopping regimen, but it also bears risks.A Here are 10 easy ways to lock down your Web security this season, and still get all your shopping done in time.

Keep your browser updated

Start at the beginning. Whether you use Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer, updating your browser will help to ensure that youre getting the most up-to-date security protection.

Using Windows Update will take care of Internet Explorer.A Firefox and Chrome should keep themselves current by automatically checking for updates.

To confirm whether you have the latest version of Firefox, click the Firefox tab in the top-left corner, find the help menu, and click About Firefox. In Chrome, click the settings button at the top-right corner of the window and click About Google Chrome; if you see a green checkmark, that means you have the latest version.

Install malware-protection software

Another thing to check before you binge-shop is your security software.A The market has no shortage of utilities dedicated to protecting your computer from malicious attacks.A G Data Internet Security,A Norton Internet Security, and Bitdefender are all applications that have tested well at PCWorld.

You can even find plenty of free applications for protecting your computer from malware and Internet attacks that could result from an unfortunate online shopping session. The bottom line: Antimalware programs can't protect you from all attacks, and they certainly can't catch "social engineering" exploits. But in this day and age, it's silly not to use some sort of baseline protection.

Buy from reputable online stores and sellers

If youve never heard of the site youre considering a purchase from, you have a number of ways to make sure it is legitimate.

Third-party organizations such as theA Better Business Bureau Online and Truste give seals of approval to sites that meet their security and privacy standards.

Also, comparing products on sites like Bizrate can give you confidence that you're getting a fair price.

For example, searching for "iPad" on Bizrate provides a list of online retailers that sell the tablet, offering you an easy way to compare prices and read firsthand customer accounts of their experiences with specific retailers.

Look for the address-bar padlock symbol

A webpage should always be Secure Sockets LayerA (SSL)-encrypted if you plan to use your credit card information to shop. SSL encryption ensures privacy by restricting the computers that can access the data being transferred, limiting access to you and the online retailer exclusively.

Originally published on www.pcworld.com. Click here to read the original story.

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