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October 19th, 2019

online shopping clipartCourtesy photoELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


The Christmas shopping season is under way for many people, with many gifts being purchased online through Web sites like Amazon and Walmart, among many others. 

This season in particular, according to statistics from, is looking to be particularly robust. 

“Positive macroeconomic conditions will fuel holiday season spending. With the US stock market, labor market and consumer confidence numbers at or near multi-way highs, consumers will continue to spend more liberally through the remainder of the year,” eMarketer noted. “2018 U.S. holiday ecommerce sales are expected to grow 16.2% to $123.39 billion.”

With many people looking to purchase Christmas presents online this year, it is also important for people to be sure they stay safe while doing their online shopping. 

“One of the main things I recommend people do is if at all possible, use PayPal as the payment option because PayPal has what they call buyer protection and it’s a very secure way of being able to transfer funds to merchants and it also protects you against fraudulent activity, so if someone does try and charge to that who shouldn’t, PayPal quickly catches that and they’ll remove the transaction,” local I.T. specialist Taylor Harden said. “Outside of that, use verified Web sites – anytime you’re shopping on Amazon or or with Best Buy, you’ll be safe and have a good experience. But when you get on Web sites for smaller businesses like Etsy or things like that, you need to be careful and make sure to do the necessary due diligence on that merchant and look for the Verisign badge and it’ll also go a long way if they’re credited by the Better Business Bureau. Also, never use debit cards online, that’s something I tell people day in and day out because if that does get hacked, it gives them direct access to pull funds out of your bank account and the damage is done, whereas if you use a credit card it’s easier with those to dispute charges and get them removed.”

Harden added he has already gotten several questions about how to keep everything safe while shopping online. 

“I know in the past year we’ve seen a huge increase in ransomware and once your computer’s affected with that, don’t make any purchases with that machine until it’s been cleaned up properly because if your computer has ransomware the attacker now has remote access to your machine, which means they see everything you’re typing in,” Harden warned. “People should also use some good common sense like if a Web site looks sketchy, don’t give them money, but if it’s eBay or something like that, the corporation is overseeing the seller. Also, make sure when you do make a purchase, check your statement a few days later and make sure it’s for the exact amount the Web site said and nothing else was paid for.”

Harden also said should personal information get compromised, or if someone feels like that has happened, it is important to take action immediately. 

“Immediately call the credit card company or the bank and get them to put the entire account on hold so they can start the investigation process,” Harden said. “If you start to get a lot of pop-up ads and things like that while you’re shopping, it’s time to close out of everything, run a virus scan and make sure there’s nothing that’s made its way onto your computer. Another good rule is be aware of what all software is on your computer and that way if you find something that’s not supposed to be there, you can go to your computer’s control panel and remove anything that either looks unfamiliar or you don’t use anymore.”

Overall, customers need to be safe while spreading holiday cheer. 

“Wait as long as possible because the closer it gets to Christmas, the cheaper stuff gets online and in the stores. And this applies to anytime, but if you feel your computer’s been compromised or any of your personal information, get it to a shop and get it all cleaned up. Also, don’t get lulled into thinking making purchases on your phone is more secure, because that’s just not true, it’s actually less secure to do that, so make any purchases on a laptop or desktop computer when possible,” Harden said. “More of the questions we’ve gotten lately have been about how to not get ransomware and viruses, which is very difficult and in the 17 years I’ve been in I.T., I’ve never gotten a virus but I’ve also always known what I’m looking for and where to find it. And these remote attackers are crafting viruses and bugs in such a way now that it’s very difficult for some people to decipher what is real and what’s malicious. I would also advise people change their logins for those shopping sites after everything’s said and done with your shopping because that will also help decrease the chance of anything being compromised.”

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