The Fourth of July may be famous for fantastic fireworks displays across the country, but its fast becoming hugely popular with retailers that are offering impressive discounts online several weeks before the holiday. Since mid-June, my mail has been flooded with discounts for everything from lawn mowers to apparel. That leaves me marveling that retailers seem to want to push up the shopping season earlier as each year goes by…what’s next, Christmas sales starting in August?

My pet peeve aside, there is no denying that I will shop online this fourth of July, if only because some of the offers seem too good to pass up - and I needed the items anyway. As I work for an application security testing company, I cannot help putting on my security hat, and try to be savvy about how I shop online and what Personally Identifiable Information I plan to provide online. So, here’s my list of three things to keep in mind when shopping online..

1. Use a prepaid credit card: Many of the major credit card institutions today like American Express, Visa, and Chase offer this service, which is invaluable to a dedicated online shopper like me. The way this works is – you pay in advance to the card company, after which you can use the card until the payment is depleted. You can recharge the card and use it again. This way, if you card information is compromised online, the most you stand to lose is the amount you put up on the card. Way better than worrying about the consequences if your credit card with a $20,000 limit gets into the wrong hands.

2. Be careful where you shop: Of course, this appears to be so obvious that you may be wondering why I’m adding this in, but you’d be surprised at the number of new sites mushrooming in the world wide web, and how legit some of them can appear to be. I go with some trusted sites, mostly for peace of mind, but even with those sites, I would suggest using the prepaid card- just in case.

3. Use an updated web browser: Check to see if you are using the latest version of your browser. Web browsers are updated regularly to be more secure, and to protect against the latest malware and new security threats.

There are plenty more to this list like – don’t click on fake e-cards, or give your social security number information during checkout (which should scream all sorts of warnings about using that site), but if you can started with the above and make it a habit, you’re getting started with the basics of essential online shopping hygiene.

Wish you all a happy Fourth!

Niru Raghavan joined the Veracode team in late 2011 as an Acquisition Marketing Manager. In this role, Niru is responsible for demand generation and program management primarily for online marketing programs. Prior to joining Veracode, Niru held positions of increasing responsibility at Liberty Mutual and Staples, successfully planning and implementing sophisticated online and offline marketing initiatives. She has managed product development efforts, launch activities and online marketing programs geared toward mid to large sized businesses in select vertical markets. Her specialties include product marketing, marketing strategy, and market research/analysis. She is also a keen web analytics enthusiast and Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik is her all time favorite blog.

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