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Posted November 27, 2017 | 10:10 AM

Consumer Protection: Tips to Shop Smart

During this busy time of the year, it is easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of activities and find yourself running out of time to shop for holiday gifts. Be a smart holiday shopper and keep safety and security in mind. Hillsborough County Consumer Protection offers the following tips for online and in-store shopping during the holidays:

  • Protect your devices - Install high-quality, anti-virus software and update it regularly. Programs can be found at local retail stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, or BestBuy.
  • Secure your network - Password protect and ensure that security is enabled on your Wi-Fi or home networks to deter hackers from uncovering your personal information. A strong password on your home network is an especially important step before you enter your credit card information on retailers' websites. Technical assistance is available from your Internet provider.
  • Browse safely - Look for the security information. Check for the letters, "https:"in the website address at the top of your screen. That "s" in the address stands for "secure." You might also see a little padlock symbol in the same line, meaning it's safe. Be careful and avoid using public Wi-Fi or hotspots that might reveal your personal information.
  • Shop safely - If you're using a site that you're unsure of, consider using an alternate form of payment such as a prepaid debit card for your online shopping. This can offer protection but may also charge a small fee-usually around a dollar per transaction associated with using them; another similar option is to use a third-party company such as PayPal. You may be required to create an account, but can sometimes register as a guest. Remember: always choose a strong password with a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Make passwords unique, and don't use the same password for multiple websites or accounts.
  • Protect your information - Take time to monitor your accounts and identity for unauthorized charges during this busy holiday shopping season-this includes credit reports. You can get a copy of your credit report for free and find other important information at AnnualCreditReport.com. Be sure to report suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately as banks or companies might require a police report before agreeing that you're not responsible for any fraudulent charges.

Learn more about Hillsborough County Consumer Protection by calling (813) 635-8316, or visit HCFLGov.net/Consumer