Shopping online is convenient, and allows you to avoid the crowds. Before logging on to shop, there are a few tips to keep you safe online on Cyber Monday and the rest of the shopping season. *Check the site to verify it is secure. Look for the "https:" in the URL of the page that asks for your credit card information. There should be an "s" appearing on the site which ensures security. A secure site will have an icon for a locked padlock on your browser either on the address bar or on the bottom right corner.

*Research retailers that you are not familiar with. There are many sites such as, and others that provide ratings of retailers.

*Keep your security software up to date. Have the latest virus protection software updates from your provider. It just takes one click onto an unsecured site to have your computer attacked by a virus. You can get free online software protection from AVG

*Stop and think before logging on to a site. Use an URL scanning tool to ensure you're not clicking on links that lead to infected websites. AVG LinkScanner does this It's free, and it works with all other security and anti-virus software.

*Keep your personal information private. Create a separate email account that is just for online shopping. Your shopping e-mail account should be in no way connected with your personal or work e-mail account.

*Keep records of your online shopping. Print confirmation email confirmations. File them away some place safe.

*Change your passwords often. Keep separate passwords for each shopping account, bank account, credit card account and e-mail account. Write them down in a notebook and keep the information in a secure location. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information. Shop smart and stay safe this holiday season.

For now, happy shopping!

Laurie Dixon, TheBAG Lady