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<p>(BPT) - Consumers often associate holiday shopping with long lines, crowded stores and overpriced goods. In recent years, many have turned to e-commerce as an easier alternative &ndash; holiday shopping without the headache. This year e-commerce sales are projected to reach $262 billion, a 13-percent increase over 2012.</p><p>This growth is due, in part, to the rising popularity of online &ldquo;shopping holidays&rdquo; like Cyber Monday, which is celebrated annually the Monday after Thanksgiving and accounts for more online sales than any other day of the year. Last year, Cyber Monday sales reached $1.46 billion &ndash; a record for online spending in one day.</p><p>Hampering celebration of this stress-free alternative to in-store shopping is the rapid growth of cybercrime. Cyber thieves are to blame for $113 billion in consumer financial losses in the last 12 months. That&rsquo;s enough money to host the London 2012 Olympics nearly 10 times over. An equally alarming statistic is the rising average loss per victim, which doubled from 2012 to 2013 to $298.</p><p>Despite the aforementioned dangers, many online shoppers are unaware of the risks associated with online shopping and don&rsquo;t believe they&rsquo;ll become one of the 556 million annual victims. Forty-eight percent of smartphone and tablet users do not take even the basic precautions such as using passwords, installing security software or backing up files from their mobile devices.</p><p>&ldquo;As the popularity of online shopping continues to skyrocket, so do the opportunities for hackers to steal personal information,&rdquo; says <a href="http://newsroom.devry.edu/article_display.cfm?article_id=1614" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">Bob Bunge</a>, professor in the <a href="http://www.devry.edu/degree-programs/college-engineering-information-sciences.html" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">College of Engineering and Information Sciences at DeVry University</a> and consultant at the William Factory Small Business Incubator in Tacoma, Wash. &ldquo;Online shoppers need to be aware of the risks associated with e-commerce and take proactive steps to protect themselves.&rdquo;</p><p>Bunge offers the following tips for consumers to protect themselves from cyber attacks:</p><p>* Boost password strength: Weak and ineffective passwords enable identity theft. The first rule of password construction is to go long. Short passwords can be uncovered by high-speed programs built to steal password combinations.</p><p>* Ditch the debit cards: Debit cards are the least secure option for e-commerce purchases. PayPal and credit cards offer much better consumer protections including dispute resolution and fraud prevention.</p><p>* Use the most secure network possible: Wired networks are always preferable to wireless. If a wired network is not an option, make sure to use a secure wireless network that requires an encryption key. Be especially wary of accessing public Wi-Fi services at places like airports and coffee shops.</p><p>* Don&rsquo;t store personal finance information: Don&rsquo;t store credit card details online. Storing any payment information online exponentially increases the probability of a cyber attack.</p><p>* Shop on reputable sites: Scammers often begin fake URL&rsquo;s with names of reputable companies to lure consumers in. To avoid accidently clicking on an infected site, look for the SSL certificate and ensure the site starts with https:// and has a padlock icon.</p><p>&ldquo;Cyber Monday is the Super Bowl of online theft,&rdquo; says Bunge. &ldquo;While consumers should follow these tips all year long, they should remain extra vigilant during the holidays to avoid the increased risk of falling victim to cybercrime.&rdquo;</p> <img src='http://www.brandpointcontent.com/printsite/ImageWriter.ashx?articleid=16960&memberid=8729' border='0' width='1' height='1' />

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