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How to Protect Your Identity During Holiday Shopping

California Attorney General Kamala Harris issued a consumer alert with tips on how residents can protect information from identity theft while shopping online.

If you're shopping online this holiday season, officials are warning you to avoid online identity theft.

Here are several consumer tips from California Attorney General Kamala Harris. See how you can purchase gifts online in a safe way: 

1. Consider purchasing an antivirus and anti-spyware software.

If you already have antivirus software, be sure to download the latest security updates, as new viruses and malicious programs are created each day.

2. Use a credit card instead of a debit card.

If a person has your stolen debit card it gives them access to your bank account. A credit card offers added protection from fraudulent transactions. Keep your credit card numbers private and don't reveal them online. Review your credit card bills each month to check for unauthorized, bizarre charges.

3. Make purchases through websites with connections.

Choose websites or online merchants that offer heightened SSL (Secure Socket Layer) security to protect your personal information. Check your browser's status before entering your phone or credit card number. See if the browswer has an unbroken "padlock" icon, which indicates the site uses SSL. Also, refrain from sending payment information via email because most email accounts are not secure.

4. Watch what you post online.

Be careful about posting personal information online. Avoid posting addresses or phone numbers on Facebook or Twitter.

5. Strengthen all your passwords and PINs.

Use a combination of numbers, letters and symbols to keep your shopping and email accounts safe. It might seem tempting to use a child's name, birthday, consecutive numbers or predictable passwords - but these aren't strong passwords.

6. Talk to your kids about the dangers of online shopping.

Encourage your kids to take special precaution online. Supervise your child's online shopping and explain how to keep information clear and identity thieves.

7. Shop at trusted, well-known websites.

You want to find the best deals, but be careful while you visit unfamiliar sites. If a vendor is unfamiliar, check out customer reviews and Better Business Bureau listings to see the site's legitimacy.

8. Be wary of fake online stores.

Avoid traps. Online scammers can steal personal information after redirecting shoppers to fake web pages that resemble checkout pages for real shopping sites. Use caution and set your browser to block pop-up windows. Steer clear of clicking links from other email or websites. 

9. Guard your Social Security number.

An online shopping site should never ask your Social Security number for a regular purchase. Don't share this personal information.

For more information about identity theft and how to recognize it, visit: http://ag.ca.gov/idtheft/index.php.

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