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By Suzanne Schlundt, Cox Communications
November 26, 2019 (San Diego’s East County) -- In 2018, shoppers spent $7.9 billion during Cyber Monday, up from $6.69 billion in 2017. This year, experts predict a 20% increase in Cyber Monday online sales on Dec. 2, coming in at $9.5 billion. And with one less shopping week this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, consumers may be even more focused on Cyber Monday to secure gifts in time for family festivities.
Online shopping is a great way to find deals and save time when you can’t get to a store’s physical location, but don’t forget to keep your guard up when making those online purchases. 

According to consumer credit monitoring company Experian, 43% of consumers who had their identity stolen say it happened while shopping online during the holidays. Here are some tips to help you before, during and after you dive into the shopping frenzy.
  • Is your anti-virus software up to date? Online security software such as MacAfee, which Cox offers free to its internet customers, provides protection against viruses, spyware and other online foes that could compromise the safety of your online shopping. Check with your internet provider. Some, like Cox, offer security software for your computers, tablets and smartphones free with your internet service.
  • Use different passwords for different sites. This is a great tip throughout the year, but especially during the high-volume online shopping season. If a hacker gains access to your username and password combinations, they could get into your various accounts. Passwords should be longer and have a mix of characters: upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. You can use a password manager to securely track this vital information, or use mnemonic tricks to remember them. 
  • Location, location, location. You’ll be joining more than 100 million Americans shopping online on Cyber Monday. Having a fast, safe and reliable internet connection is a must if you want to snag those holiday deals. It’s best to do your online shopping in the comfort and safety of your home’s internet and wifi network, which should be password protected. But if you can’t be home, make sure the internet connection you will be using is safe.
  • Use secure websites. Reputable websites from well-known brands and companies will be the most secure. They will show “HTTPS:” in the browser bar. Once you have completed a transaction, be sure to log out of the website.
  • Don’t rely on search engines to find deals. Scammers publish deceptive links that can trick you into thinking they’re legitimate. If you want a certain toy or tech gift, go directly to a reputable brand website and begin your search. And beware of malicious links. Hover over a link before you click on it to see the full web address or use a link scanner website to safely enter and check a web link. 
  • If you go mobile, use apps, not your browser. It’s best to use a retailer’s mobile app when shopping from a mobile device. If you use a mobile browser, there is an increased chance you cannot see the actual URL on the page where you are inputting personal information to complete your transaction.
  • Keep transactions on file. Save your purchase confirmations in a file folder with either physical printouts or on your computer drive. This will help with returns or exchanges, and to dispute fraudulent transactions, should they occur.
  • Monitor your credit and debit accounts more frequently. Keep a close eye on your statements to ensure the transactions are correct for the sites that you purchase from. Better yet, don’t use debit cards online, since there’s less fraud protection.
With the right safeguards in place, advance preparation and ongoing account monitoring, you can keep your season merry and bright in 2019 instead of being ruined by an online Scrooge. 
Suzanne Schlundt is the Vice President of Marketing for Cox Communications.
When you shop at Amazon, if you begin at https://smile.amazon.com Amazon donates. Please choose East County Media as your charity to support.
Want to support local small businesses? Check out East County Magazine's local unique gift guide from Small Business Saturday 2018.

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