Here at Adfero Group, I’ve been working with AVG and, who are teaming in a series of social media strategies aimed at spreading the word about how to shop safely online while finding the best bargains of the holiday season. Over the past few months, AVG, a global cyber company, initiated a dialogue here in Washington, D.C., to stress the importance of individual responsibility in cyber security., part of the National Retail Federation, operates, which aggregates the best deals from 600 retail members. Their members are all reputable online outlets, which is key to shopping safe.

Online retail is a bright spot this holiday season – online sales are expected to increase by about eight percent, and 42 percent of Americans say they will buy at least one gift online. So, just as you might be more vigilant about safety at the busy shopping mall this time of year, that vigilance should carry over to your online activities as well. and AVG offer these five tips for online shoppers this holiday season.

1. Look for the “S” for security. Make sure the sites you are shopping from are secure and have “https” in the URL. The “s” ensures security. When you are on a secure site, you will also see an icon for a locked padlock on your browser either on the address bar or on the bottom right corner. Additionally, use the Internet to research retailers not familiar to you. There are many sites such as, and others that provide ratings of retailers.

2. Stay current on security software. This means making sure you have the latest virus protection software updates from your provider. It’s important because the bad guys move around frequently. Security software companies are working to stay one step ahead of them. If you are updated, you are staying one step ahead, too.

3. Think before you link. Employ a URL scanning tool to ensure you’re not clicking on links that lead to infected Web sites. The time to find out whether a page is bad is BEFORE you click. AVG LinkScanner does this. It’s free, and it works with all other security and anti-virus offerings.

4. Keep your private information private. When shopping online, create a separate e-mail account that is just for shopping. Use a unique password, different from any other accounts you have. Your dedicated shopping e-mail account should be in no way affiliated with your personal, everyday e-mail account. Also, keep records of your online shopping – print confirmation pages and e-mail confirmations.

5. Mix up your passwords. Each shopping account, bank account, credit card account and e-mail account should have a unique password. Write them down and keep the information in a secure location. Unique passwords for each account make it tougher for a thief to steal your information.