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Cyber Monday tips of the trade: Stay safe this e-holiday

cyber monday online shopping tips 2012 Holiday Gift Guide

While shopping online definitely beats dealing with the long lines and congested aisles that come with Black Friday, Cyber Monday does have a few drawbacks of it’s own. To keep you safe from online fraudsters, we’ve put together these pro tips about how to keep your information secure while also making the most of the online sales.

Credit, not debit

Whenever possible, opt to use your credit card. You’re protected by the federal Fair Credit Billing Act when you use your credit card so you can dispute something if you’re overcharged or if anything else goes wrong. And if your card is used for something else entirely without your go-ahead, you will likely get all of the money back. If you’re nervous after the fact, use BillGuard, which checks your credit card bill for free to see if there are any eyebrow-raising charges you should be aware of.

Don’t trust links

If you’re busy Monday morning scouring the Web for the best deals out there, you’ll inevitably come across dozens of articles that link out to supposedly great sites. While many of these are probably safe, it’s best to err on the side of caution and be wary of the links you click. The deeper you delve into the depths of the internet, the more cautious you should be. If you’re unsure of a link, type the full address into your browser to avoid picking up a virus.

Update everything

You wouldn’t go snorkeling with a bendy straw, so why go browsing with out-of-date security tools? If you don’t already update them regularly, make sure your spam filters, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software are all up to date. Also be sure to check your firewall and make certain it’s secure.

Read the fine print

It should go without saying that if you’re buying something online on Cyber Monday, it’s entirely possible there’s some sort of caveat. In many cases it’s something as simple as the clarification that the discount does not apply to shipping, or some accessory isn’t included—but there are occasions in which it’s something much more significant. Be sure you’re aware of what exactly you’re paying for and getting in return. Be sure to check return policies. Print or save a copy of any receipts you get.

Go by reputation

It’s best to stick with sites you know and trust, but if you’re really digging in and looking for the best deals, you’re likely to stray away from the familiar. In these situations where you’re not sure about a particular e-retailer’s reputation, you can use certain tools to help you make good decisions. Web of Trust (WOT) is a free browser extension that will give you ratings on how trustworthy a site is and provides color-coded indicators next to every link on a given page. Norton also has a tool in which you can type in a domain name to see how safe it is.

Relax — Internet sales aren’t going anywhere

Obviously, Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer tons of great deals, but don’t worry all day that you’re making a huge mistake by not ditching work to troll the Web for bargain items (which we aren’t putting past everyone out there). E-retailers know that crazed promotion for Cyber Monday translates to huge numbers for them, but that doesn’t mean that all good deals will disappear on Tuesday morning. Think of Black Friday and Cyber Monday as the starting gun for the holiday shopping marathon — there’s still plenty of time left before Christmas, and plenty of great deals to be found. The future might not have a fancy title, but you should definitely continue to make the rounds at deals sites like DealNews, FatWallet, and RetailMeNot

Multiple members of the Digital Trends staff contributed to this guide.