While shopping online affords you the benefit of avoiding large lines and crowds, it does open you up to thieves and hackers. Make sure you know what signs to look out for to keep the Grinch from stealing your Christmas.

There are three common ways that digital thieves try to take advantage of online shoppers: creating fraudulent sites and email messages, intercepting insecure transactions, and targeting vulnerable computers.

So how do you protect yourself?

First, buy from reputable vendors. Some attackers may try to trick you by creating malicious websites that appear to be legitimate. So, before you provide your personal information and credit card data, make sure you are interacting with and purchasing from a real merchandiser.

Look for the padlock. Many sites make sure to encrypt user information. Those sites will begin with "https:" instead of "http:" and a padlock icon. If the padlock is closed, the information is encrypted. The location of the icon varies by browser, so make sure it’s in the appropriate location for your browser.

Beware of phishing emails. Attackers often try to get your information by sending emails requesting that you confirm purchase or account information. Legitimate businesses won’t ask for this information through an email.

Use a credit card instead of a debit card. There are laws to limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, but you may not have the same level of protection for your debit cards. You can minimize potential damage by using a single, low-limit credit card to make all of your online purchases.

Keep an eye on your bank statements. In the case that someone does get ahold of your account information, this is a good way to find out quickly. Match-up your holiday shopping receipts so you can quickly spot a purchase that wasn’t yours. 

You can find more ways to keep yourself secure all year long in our Security Center.