Published: Nov 15, 2013 4:47 PM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- The Lee County Sheriff's Office reminds residents to be careful while doing holiday shopping online this year.

Pause before you click that link delivered to you in an email. Opening a contaminated link could lead you to a "phishing" website where shoppers who click through are redirected to a fraudulent site designed to steal your identity and your cash. If the deal is too good to pass up, enter the website name by hand into your browser.

Examine the websites URL: Shoppers should always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a site, right-click anywhere on the page and select “Properties.” This will let you see the real URL (Web site address) and the dialog box will reveal if the site is not encrypted. Never enter your credit card number, user identification or password without the “s” and “lock” symbol.

"Appy” holidays: For safe online shopping, make sure your apps are downloaded from a trusted source, such as the Android Market, Apple App Store or the Amazon App Store. When you download the app, it will ask for various "permissions." Be sure to read through them and note whether they make sense... for example, does a shopping app need access to your contact list? Another way to check on the safety of apps is to read through the feedback in the comments section of the market and choose apps with a high rating.

Never use your debit card for online purchases: A debit card is just like cash and if compromised, your bank account can be wiped out.

Home for the holidays: Safe online holiday shopping begins with a secure network connection - like that in most homes. Public Wi-Fi can be hacked by someone with the right tools, exposing your passwords, billing information and other sensitive data. Therefore, if you’re using a public connection, it’s best to limit yourself to window-shopping and price comparing, rather than buying.

Connection Protection: Your computer should always have the most recent updates installed for spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and a secure firewall.

Contact the Fraud Hotline at 258-3292 to report a fraud or scam.