Christmas is a great time for cybercriminals to take full advantage of online shoppers with new and improved ways of stealing users’ confidential information. While it’s convenient to shop online, it’s also easy to fall victim to an attack – even by visiting a completely legitimate Web site.

There are ways, however, to keep personal information safe. Kaspersky Lab offers users the following safety tips:

* Know what you’re buying and from whom you’re buying it – fraudsters can set up e-commerce stores under any name to phish for your credit card information. Locate and note phone numbers and physical addresses of vendors in case there is a problem with your transaction or your bill.
If you’re shopping online and receive a pop-up chat box asking for your credit card details, ignore it and close down the Web site. Legitimate online sellers never ask for information via chat boxes or e-mails.

* Use strong passwords and security features – it’s a piece of cake for malicious hackers to crack weak passwords and hijack your accounts at e-commerce sites. Get into the habit of using a different password for every online store and, if necessary, write down those passwords and put them in a safe place.

When choosing a password, some tips to consider include: don’t use passwords that are based on birthdays or pets’ names that can be easily accessed or guessed; don’t use words that can be found in any dictionary of any language and which can be cracked with software tools; develop a mnemonic or passphrase for remembering complex passwords; use both lowercase and capital letters; and use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.

* Make sure your transaction is encrypted and your privacy is protected – many sites use SSL (secure sockets layer) to encrypt information.

Check your browser URL to make sure it begins with “https://” and has a closed padlock icon on the right of the address bar or at the bottom of the browser window. Before entering personal or financial information into an e-commerce site, it’s worth taking a moment to check the site’s privacy policy and understand exactly how your information will be stored and used.

* Use a dedicated credit card specifically for online shopping – it makes sense to shop online with a single dedicated credit card with a low credit line. This limits your exposure to fraud and helps to keep money safe.

* Keep your computer up-to-date and secure – be sure to install and keep anti-malware software updated with the latest signatures on your computer. This will help protect you from viruses and data theft Trojans that steal sensitive financial information. Apply all operating system patches in a timely manner and install updates for all browsers and commonly exploited third-party applications.

These include everything from Adobe’s Flash Player and PDF Reader to Java and iTunes. Many operating systems and software programmes offer automatic updates. If this option is available, you should enable it.

* Check back statements and look for discrepancies – keep a record of your purchases and copies of order confirmation pages, and compare them to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, investigate it thoroughly and report it to your financial institution immediately.