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How To Keep Your Assets Safe While Surfing the Web

January 3rd, 2013 Personal Finance

Our burgeoning binary age has brought commerce to the homes of anyone with an internet connection and a credit card. While you might enjoy the ease and convenience of buying a new sweater online or transferring money to a bank account without ever leaving your couch, cyberspace, just like the real world, has its share of theft. Using these helpful tips, you can minimize the chances of your information being stolen.

Visit secure websites

When a website is secure it means that the sensitive information you're sending, such as a password or your credit card number, is encrypted. In other words, your information is put into an unreadable code that prying eyes would not understand. As your info passes through the server, it stays encrypted and is only turned back into its original form once it reaches the company's website.

One way to ensure the site you're dealing with is secure is if the beginning of the web address starts with "https" rather than the standard "http." Also, some web browsers, such as Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, will have a small logo that looks like a lock located somewhere on the screen.

OnGuardOnline.gov also warns that sometimes only sign-in pages are encrypted and secure, so to fully ensure that your information remains off limits hackers you may want to check for the "s" after the http on every page.

Furthermore, it's a good idea to avoid sending any sensitive information through non-encrypted channels, like email or other messenger services.

Pay attention to security updates

The world of internet theft is constantly evolving and developing new methods for obtaining precious information. Of course, white hat hackers (the good guys) and other security professionals are doing their best to stay one step ahead of the game. You may want to update your security software regularly so your PC or laptop remains a fortified cyber fortress.

Use password protection

Your password is the key to a castle - without it hackers will have a much more difficult time accessing your information. That's why a good password choice is one that will be nearly impossible to decipher. OnGuardOnline.gov suggests using a word 10 to 12 characters long, comprised of letters, numbers and symbols. The source also warns against going with the obvious, such as your name or birthday. Furthermore, you may want to try to avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.

Know who you're dealing with

Most online transactions will take place with established businesses and institutions, like your bank or a frequently visited online store. Still, you may be tempted to utilize a less-known vendor or service that might be offering an unbeatable deal.

It's a good idea to research these online businesses. While your prospective store may be legitimate, it never hurts to seek out reviews. TD Bank North also warns against "copycat sites" that bear a resemblance to a trusted institution but in reality have nothing to do with them.

In the long-run, conducting a few minutes of research will save you hours of time and money. A red flag for an untrustworthy source could also be a site highlighting a deal that's too good to be true. Don't be afraid to be a bargain hunter, but try to know what you're getting into before entering in that credit card number.