With the holidays comes a lot of fattening up—of the pockets of online thieves. This is that special time of year where crooks are waiting to get your personal information. Don’t think you’re immune.

For instance, would you necessarily know to do some online research of a totally unknown, “ma and pa” retailer you discovered online, before making a purchase on it? Sure, those cool shoes cost only $30, but do you really know to whom you’re giving your credit card information?

  1. Buff up your knowledge. If that unique crystal music box you want is sold only from an obscure little retailer, learn all you can about the retailer (any complaints?) before giving them your credit card number.
  2. When shopping online, give out only the information that’s required; no more. If someone wants your social security number, run for the hills.
  3. Shop only on sites where “https” appears before the URL, and a padlock icon appears before the “https.” The padlock icon may also be at the bottom of the page near the taskbar.
  4. Criminals place phony websites at the top of search results to lure shoppers into “purchasing” on these “retail” sites. You’ll get nothing for your “purchase,” but the website operator will get your credit card information.
  5. Never create a password for a retail site that you use for another site.
  6. Always save online receipts. And that’s in hardcopy form.
  7. Does your computer have anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a firewall? It should.
  8. Make sure your operating system is updated. Your security center can download the most up-to-date patches.
  9. Keep your browser updated. For Chrome and Firefox, go into the browser’s tool bar and select “About,” and it will update automatically.
  10. How often do you review your credit card statements for any unauthorized purchases? Check your statements online every week. You must challenge any suspicious charges within 60 days.