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Profitt Report: Practical ways to protect your finances while shopping online

Photo credit: MGN

You don’t even need to head outside to snag Black Friday deals: you can do it from home. Many of the in-store deals are also online. Last year, more shoppers went online compared to in-store according to the National Retail Federation.

If you’ll be one of those shoppers, make sure your banking information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands this weekend.

“Online security isn't quite so easy to understand because you can't see it. People can be stealing something from you and you don't know it’s happening,” said Dr. George Corser, assistant professor at Saginaw Valley State University. Corser’s research involves online security and privacy.

He said the number one thing you should do: protect your passwords. He splits up his passwords into two categories: a junk account and sensitive data accounts.

“You have to have a junk password to use for all non-monetary accounts or non-important accounts, can't stress that enough,” he said.

Your junk account is an e-mail address and password for all sites that aren’t attached to your banking or personal data. That way, if someone gets their hands on this password, they won’t be able to log into your financial accounts.

However, when it comes to your sensitive data accounts (anything that is attached to banking or private information), you need to treat them with care.

“You should have a unique password for each of those accounts. Why? If someone hacks one of your accounts they could use your same information to hack into other accounts,” Corser said.

Think of it this way: if the retailer you shop at is hacked, thieves have your password and e-mail address. Then, they can use that to get into your other sensitive accounts. However, here’s the challenge: remembering your unique passwords.

“Take the word Texas, you might have capital T-e-x, the number 4, then an ‘s.’ That would be a little harder to hack than just the word Texas,” Corser said.

Then you can plug that complicated Tex4s word into a longer password. For example: Tex4sAmazon, or Tex4sBankofAmerica.

“You do have to make your own determination whether the risk of you getting hacked is worth the effort,” Corser said.

One more trick: instead of leaving your passwords laying around on sticky notes, write down a clue.

So for Tex4s, you could write “remember the Alamo” to jog your memory.

The Profitt Report wants to hear from you - please send consumer questions and story ideas to ProfittReport@WSMH.com

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