The Internet can take you anywhere in the world – and you don’t even have to leave your home. You can even shop at stores all over the world, which can be a huge advantage if you’re looking for just the right item at just the right price.

But there are risks when it comes to shopping online. Identity theft is a very real world kind of problem, but it happens all too often in the virtual world as well. Here are some tips for shopping safely online.

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First of all, don’t use your debit card when you shop online. You should reach for your credit card instead. Why? Because credit cards offer protection from identity theft that debit cards don’t. Your liability with a credit card, should a theft occur, caps at $50, as long as you report the fraud within 30 or 60 days. If you use your debit card, and someone gets his hands on the information, he has a direct link to your bank account. Game over.

When you are shopping online, make sure you use only secure sites, and shop only on the sites from stores you know and trust. You’ll know if a site is secure if you see “https” in the URL instead of “http.”

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Don’t shop publicly either – do your shopping at home. You know who has access to your computer at home, but on a public computer, such as at a library, you have no idea who may be using that computer after you. You also won’t know whether the computer has spyware or malware.

Consider whether faster is better. Some store sites give you the option to store your personal and financial information on their sites. But although it does make the checkout process faster, it could put your information at risk. It takes longer, but instead of storing your information on a site where you have no control, enter your information each time you shop. It’s safer.

You may get lulled into fancy gadgets with low “never seen before” prices, but remember, it’s best to shop around and make sure you not only get the best deal, but that you also get the best security. Know who has your information and how it will be used once a store or site has it in hand.

Use caution when you shop online, and don’t let ease of use be a lullaby that causes you to drift into complacency. You want the good deals, but you want the price tag to be pleasing – and identity theft free.

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