The college football season kicks off this week, which means tens of millions of fans can breathe easy after a long dry spell. Inevitably, a sizable portion of them will wager money on the outcomes of specific games, as well as their favorite teams’ and players’ fates.

Sports Business Journal estimates that $4.9 billion was gambled on athletics in 2017 alone—and that number only includes legal bets made in Nevada. Landmark legislation across the country has made sports gambling even more accessible, as 11 states now fully support it, and 33 others are swiftly moving toward full support.

RELATED: Earlier this month, ESPN.com published a map of the United States with updated state-by-state legal information.

So, if you’re a person who expects to risk your cash on, say, the Florida Gators vs. the Miami Hurricanes this Saturday, you won’t be alone. Far from it.

But there are major security risks that you need to consider before you place your bet.

Keep Your Gambling Secure

The Internet has turned into a virtual shopping center. Long gone are the days when users would stress about inputting credit card information as part of an online order; in fact, online spending now outpaces general merchandise sales in the U.S. Purchasing items on the Internet is an everyday occurrence for many.

Don’t get too comfortable. There are still countless sites that are designed to steal your credentials, Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and more.

How can you tell whether your information will be safe?

For starters, there is a symbol to the left of the URL of every page. In Google Chrome, you can find this in the search bar near the top of your browser. One of these three images should appear:

  • Secure
  • Info or Not secure
  • Not secure, or Dangerous

If you see the icon, it means information you send or receive is private. Important: just because you see this icon does not mean you should share your PII without a second thought (more on this in a moment).

If you see  there could be risk involved with your visit because the site is not using a private connection. Sometimes, there is a more secure version of the website available if you replace “http://” with “https://” in the URL.

Lastly, a symbol means the page is not secure and may even be dangerous. At the least, your login and payment information is not secure. Websites with this designation should be avoided at all costs.

Which Gambling Site Are You Using?

Even if you get a icon, it does not mean you’re relieved from using critical thinking skills. Secure information transfers are not actually secure if they end up in the wrong hands.

What site are you using to place wagers? Is it reputable? Make sure you do your research, and keep in mind that seemingly solid reviews — like this roundup by OddsShark.com — might be tied to behind-the-scenes financial payouts (for instance, the OddsShark.com reviews all feature prominent “PLAY NOW” buttons with “Signup Bonus” options… it’s hardly a beacon of journalistic integrity).

If you’ve never heard of a particular gambling site, and you are unable to find much information about it from a third party, it’s best to stay away. And remember that anytime you give your credit card information away online, there is at least a small percentage of risk involved—no matter who you’re giving it to.

Reminder: Make a daily or weekly habit of examining your online credit card activity. Doing so will greatly aid your efforts in identifying security issues.

Other Gambling Risks To Consider

Anytime we talk about gambling, we need to discuss the risks of addiction and/or harmful behavior. If you are — or if someone you know is — struggling with gambling addiction, please reach out to the National Problem Gambling Helpline.

Before you spend any money, please review the Mayo Clinic page on compulsive gambling.

It’s healthier to consider gambling as an entertainment expense (like going to the movies) rather than a way to make a profit. If you assign yourself a small budget for gambling, you should be prepared to lose all of it without recouping anything in return.

So long as you stay secure, make healthy choices and keep your wagering within the confines of the law, we hope you have fun this season.

The Security Awareness Company

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