A woman shopping online. Photo via Pixabay

An estimated 78 million Americans are expected to shop online on Cyber Monday, which is now second only to Black Friday as a holiday shopping day.

If you’re one of those shopping, here are seven tips for staying safe in a world of cyber threats.

1. Make sure your antivirus software is active and up-to-date

Whether you have Norton, ESET, McAfee, Kaspersky or another brand, make sure the desktop icon is visible on the menu bar indicating the software is monitoring your computer. Check to make sure it’s up-to-date. Don’t shop until this vital protection in in place.

2. Go directly to a store’s website and check the URL 

Cyber criminals create websites designed to look like popular online stores. But they can’t copy the URL. So, if you’re shopping at Walmart’s site, for example, make sure the URL shown in your browser is “Walmart.com” and not something else.

3. Check to see that your connection is secure

In Chrome and Firefox, look for the green padlock icon next to the URL indicating a secure connection. The padlock and “https” in the URL indicate a higher-level of security that an ordinary website.

4. Use a credit card or PayPal, not a debit card

If your connection is compromised, and you use a debit card, thieves can gain access to your bank account. Getting any stolen funds back can be difficult and time-consuming.

5. Don’t click on pop-up ads from questionable sources

Advertising on reputable news sites is legitimate, but an ad that seems to appear out of nowhere is likely a scam. Don’t click on it.

6. Don’t click on attachments in email offers

Reputable retailers will send you email with information about specials and deals. But they won’t send you an attachment, which could contain a malicious program. So if the email has an attachment, it’s probably a scam. Don’t click on it.

7. Always use your common sense

Be sure to use your common sense. If a shopping site asks for out-of-the-ordinary information like your Social Security number, get out of it. Avoid using insecure, public wifi networks. And, as with any shopping, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.