'Tis the season to protect your devices

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - During the holidays, we're always looking for ways to save, but online deals can turn into trouble. 'Tis the season to give, but it's also the time many people get hacked.

When you're out and about doing your holiday shopping or traveling through the airport, watch out for unsecured WiFi access. Free WiFi means anyone has access, and that makes it easier for hackers to get access to the information stored in your device.

John Fry, owner of Fry's Computer Guys, says he sees many people getting into trouble this way. "Even at home there's a degree of risk, you should be doing it on a computer that's updated, not only virus updates, but Windows updates," he says.

Shopping from your phone is easy, but it doesn't have the same virus software as your computer, and that can make you an easy target for hackers. They can also get to you through your phone by using text message phishing.

If you get a text from a store asking you for your personal information, don't answer - instead, call the store directly.

Also, when smartphone shopping, stick to apps for common retailers or save making payments until you get home.

"One of the things we're looking for during checkout is that it has 'https,' that means it's encrypted or a higher-degree of safety," says Fry.

When checking the website domain, look for legitimacy. The BBB reported many fake websites included the word "Overstock," in their title, to try to fool consumers into thinking they're shopping on Overstock.com

When online shopping, experts recommend using a credit card, not a debit card; this will give you greater protection against possible fraud.

It's important to watch out for those enticing ads that come across social media, like Facebook, as well. One click can cause a virus.

"If it's email or if it's Facebook and they're saying, come look at this picture, I'd be weary of it," says Fry. "Don't click on the link and don't open the email."

Fake Facebook and Twitter video links fell on the list for the BBB Top 10 Scams of 2012.

People use social media to try to gain your trust and "connect with you," and before you know it, you're hacked.

As you're searching for those holiday gifts, you also need to watch out for e-cards, surveys and social media giveaways.

Free offers for flights and vacations are also popular this time of the year, but keep in mind, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

The Better Business Bureau shut down more than 100 fraudulent websites this year alone.

According to Fry, the FBI virus is the most common. "It basically extorts $300 from the user that's clicked on the wrong thing and locks up their computer so they can't use it."

If you're planning to make an online donation, you want to double check the charity to make sure your money is going where you think it is. Never donate over the phone, and use websites for the IRS and FEMA to research a charity's legitimacy.

When online shopping you can also look for the BBB seal, click on it and you'll be sent right to the BBB website. If this doesn't work, stop shopping on that site, it's better to be safe than sorry. One wrong click can cost you hundreds of dollars.

The Myrtle Beach Better Business Bureau can be found at:

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