Christmas season is here again. Holidays are probably the busiest and most stressful time of the year, as everyone hosts festivities and searches for the perfect gift. ”Thieves like to take advantage of shoppers at this time of year,” said Lamar County sheriff’s Capt. Lara Clark. “They exploit the giving nature of the season and the true meaning of Christmas by taking advantage. It’s important shoppers know how to protect themselves from threats on the web.”The Lamar County sheriff’s office crime prevention office would like to pass on a few tips about shopping online. ’¢ Before shopping online, secure the computer by upgrading security software. Every computer should have antivirus software, anti-spyware and anti-spam software and a good firewall. Firewalls and antivirus software are the first line of defense. They help keep a computer safe and secure. ’¢ Keep personal information private and password secure. Do not respond to any request to verify passwords or credit card information unless you initiated the contact. Legitimate businesses won’t ask for this information. ’¢ Beware of bargains from unfamiliar companies. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’¢ Use secure websites for purchases. Look for the icon of a locked padlock at the bottom of the screen or ‘https’ in the URL address. They indicate a secure website.’¢ Shop with known, trusted companies. Check the company background if not familiar with it.’¢ Consider alternate options to pay for merchandise, such as one time or multiuse disposable credit cards or use money orders at online stores and auction sites. Also, know all the rules and policies of the sites being used.’¢ Be aware of what is being bought and know what to expect.