By Jon Callas, Chief Technogical Officer, Entrust

As the countdown to Christmas is now well and truly underway, many shoppers will be avoiding the high street crush and opting to go on-line to find the latest must-have gift. Online sales offer convenience and the chance to track down some great promotions and deals, but it’s still important to be vigilant to make sure the web experience is as secure as possible.

Over the holiday period, whether you’re purchasing gifts, or booking tickets to get away, it’s essential to be on guard against fraudsters when making on-line transactions. Here’s our checklist of top tips to help make sure your experience is safe and secure.

Look for the Green Bar in the address bar. If the site has an EV (extended validation) certificate the address bar will be green and the business name will be readily visible. This means that the site from which you’re making your purchase has met a specific set of security guidelines which are independently verified, and that the site can be trusted.

Seek the Seal. Respectable organisations will display the site seal of their SSL certificate provider either on their home page or during the checkout process. Take it a step further by clicking on the site seal to ensure it’s legitimate. Verify that the date and name of the organisation are consistent with the site you're visiting.

The SSL Standard. Secure Sockets Layers - more commonly known as SSL – help to ensure that Internet transmissions are encrypted and the identity of the organisation has been verified. You can verify if a site uses SSL via the "https://" in the address bar instead of the standard "http" format.

Find the Lock. You should also look out for the padlock within their browser - one of the main security features of basic SSL - especially during the checkout process or when supplying personal information. Depending on what browser you use, it might be on the address bar or somewhere else like the title bar. But if you click on it, you will see security information about the site you’re on.

This indicator should also be present when "https://" is displayed before your site's URL in the address bar.
Card Security. Most online retailers will require the three-digit Card Verification Value (CVV or CV2) number from the back of your credit card. If they don't, think twice about completing the purchase.

Be Careful in Public. Be careful when you are using public Wi-Fi -- particularly if it's unsecured. You never know who could be listening. Double-check that there’s SSL, and that the certification is good. Be extra, extra careful on a public computer; don’t do anything financial or involving a password unless you must, as these are easily riddled with malware.

Log out of Your Web Site. This may seem obvious, but log out of any Web session that stores personal account or banking information. This is critical if using a public computer.

Monitor Your Account. While it's always good practice to keep an eye on your banking account throughout the year, take a closer look after purchasing products or carrying out any transactions online. If your identity or account has been compromised, you may be able to limit fraud loss if it's caught early.

Finally, be aware of common red flags that could signify a potential phishing attack, which may include suspicious URLs, misspellings and urgent requests for banking or personal information.

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