2014 is going to be a record year for online sales but, unfortunately, will more than likely be a record year for online scams as well. The fact is, as more and more people continue to use smart phones and tablets to shop, hackers and thieves will continue to take advantage of the common mistakes that they make while doing so, like giving out far too much personal information, using common Wi-Fi areas when making purchases or using passwords that are easy to hack.

With that in mind we put together a bunch of excellent Tips for staying safe when shopping online whether it’s from your laptop, smart phone or tablet. Enjoy.

Look for signs that a website isn’t legitimate.

Practically all online retailers have their own website these days but if you see things like poor design, a web address that doesn’t make sense or pop-up windows aplenty, you can bet that the website you’re on isn’t legitimate. If you see any of these signs the first thing you should do is close any and all browser windows that you have open and of course never input any of your personal or financial information.

Never use a hyperlink to surf to a retail website.

It’s extremely rare for a retailer to send you an email with an embedded hyperlink and, if you receive one, send it to your spam folder directly. The best way to surf to a retail website is to input the website’s URL into your browser and surf to it directly, something that will greatly lessen the risk that you end up on a scam site or “phishing” website that can steal your personal financial information.

Look for websites with “https” in their web address.

We all know that a normal web address begins with the letters “http” but adding one extra letter, the “s” means that you are on a Secure website. So look for website addresses with “https” at the beginning to be sure. Also, it’s best to make sure that your antivirus software is up-to-date and working correctly when you’re shopping online or, for that matter, when you’re online in general.

Never give out your Social Security number during checkout.

Any retail website that asks for your Social Security number is more than likely a scam site and should be avoided like the plague. Unless you’re on a federal government or state government  site where your Social Security number is necessary for getting or receiving official documents or information, never input these eight vitally important numbers into any other website.

Use a credit card with automatic identity theft protection.

Most credit cards come with this and it’s a great reason to use them rather than a debit card when shopping online. If your account is hacked for whatever reason and you have this protection your credit card company will not only investigate the incident but, in most cases, reimburse the lost funds up to a certain amount of money. The fact is that credit card companies are required by law to allow their members to dispute any charges and most cover for charges made with stolen information or stolen cards. Of course it’s also a good idea to check your credit card statement every time you get one in the mail and, even better, at least once a week online so that you can be sure that none of the charges are false and, if they are, dispute them immediately.

Change your passwords regularly.

One of the easiest ways for an online thief to steal and use your credit card or other banking information is simply to determine what your password is and, if you use simple passwords or never change them, you make it even easier for them. Since most people have numerous online accounts with retailers and banks it’s a good idea to keep track of your passwords in some type of secure document or using one of the dozens of online password protection services.

Avoid strangers on your social media pages.

If you are invited to “friend” someone that you don’t know on Facebook or some other social media site, and they have no links to any of your other friends or relatives, turn down their request. If that sounds unfriendly, you can bet that if you allow them to become your “friend” and they hack your accounts and steal your money you won’t be in a friendly mood for long. In fact, it’s best to treat messages from strangers as spam and immediately shuffle them into your spam folder.