Thanksgiving is just weeks away, and that means the biggest shopping day(s) of the year are creeping up on us too!

Yes, we’re talking Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when you might find yourself opting to skip the crowded stores and just do your shopping online. Let’ face it, there are many deals to be had with internet shopping which make it quite tempting, but just how safe are the sites you’re visiting, and how will you know how legitimate they are? We’ve got some tips which will help you learn what to look for.

The first rule of thumb when you’re looking to shop online is to do a google search of the website’s name to see what’s being said about it. Google is a great source to find out information, including user reviews and feedback, as well as the site’s legitimacy.  

Next, look at the web address in the browser address bar to see if it starts with ‘https:’ – this is more secure and trustworthy than simply the ‘http’.

More importantly, when you’re checking out and ready to pay, make sure that the site’s payment page has the ‘https.’ If it doesn’t have the ‘s’, reconsider handing over your account number and personal information.
Another way to check the site’s security status is to look for a green padlock icon, which is located to the left of the website’s URL. You can verify and view the site’s details by clicking on the padlock icon. This will tell you the type of encryption that is used.

You can gain valuable information by looking at the name of the website as it appears in the URL, so be sure to take a good look at it. A website’s URL consists of a connection type (“https” or “http”), then the domain name (“tech2020solutions”), then the extension (“.com”, “.net”, “.edu”, “.gov”). Once you verify that the connection is secure, lookout for red flags.

The following are some examples of red flags:

•    Symbols and/or multiple dashes in the domain name.
•    Misspelled names, typos, and imitation business names – such as “Amaz0n”.
•    Domain extensions such as “.info” or “.biz” – these tend to be less credible

Other things to look for when checking the credibility of a site are:
- poor grammar
- a multitude of misspelled words and improper phrasing

If you start to see either, you'll want to think twice before handing over your financial or personal information.  Remember, legitimate companies will invest in having a top-notch website without those kind of inaccuracies.  
Another thing to look out for is advertising. Credible websites won’t have an invasive number of ads, including those which automatically play music or solicit you to take a survey.  

You can also check to see if the site has a “Contact Us” page. If there is no way to get in touch with someone at the company, then you are better off leaving that site without making any purchases.

While shopping for the holidays can be stressful, it doesn’t have to be financially frightening. By taking the time to ensure you’re shopping on safe and credible websites, online shopping can be fun – provided you’re staying within your budget, of course.