Protecting yourself from cyber-criminals

HOUSTON Cyber crooks know that it's prime online shopping time, so they are doing everything in their power to grab your credit card information, but you can still take steps to stop them.

Ed Garza has been burned by a website before.

He said, "I made a purchase several years ago and it was hard to get a refund and I never got the product."

Garza says that cyber-lesson has him checking out websites before paying any money for a product.

"I know from the past that I want to make sure they have a legitimate address on their website, a phone number, a way to contact customer service -- a legitimate way -- as well as a privacy policy and a refund policy," Garza said.

This year Garza used a website he is already familiar with to take advantage of a Cyber Monday cell phone sale. If you are randomly searching for deals be certain the website offering the deals will be the merchant providing the goods.

Alex Diaz with Top Tech Experts said, "There are websites that allow different merchants to sell through the website. So you want to check who the actual merchant is selling you the item and shipping the item to you because ultimately they will be responsible for handling the returns."

Diaz says also make sure the website's check out page is secure by looking for two things in the address bar. First, at the beginning of the web address look for the letters h-t-t-p-s and at the end of the address bar, look for a padlock symbol. They are indicators the web page is encrypting your data.

Also a a device like a Smart Swipe credit card reader can provide some added protection in defeating viruses looking for your credit card information.

"You just swipe your card like you were in a store and it encrypts the information right there at that point and sends it encrypted over to the merchant," Diaz explained. "(Otherwise) when you put the information onto the computer, it does not get encrypted until it gets to the merchant."

Smart Swipe runs about $50, but if you are visiting websites that you have done business with in the past, the device may not be needed.

Also when shopping online, make sure the model number matches with the picture on the website. Experts advise you check your online statements daily during this heavy shopping period.

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