Many people are afraid of shopping online after hearing so much about identity theft and online retail fraud. However, for many of us, online shopping is much quicker and more convenient than any other form of shopping. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to protect your information when shopping online.
- Don't shop on public computers. Although you can choose for the computer not to remember your information, it's safer to just wait and shop from your own home or work computer - that is used by nobody else - than to use a shared or public computer in a lab or library.
- Do not have the computer remember your financial information. It's tempting to have your computer or the online retail site remember your credit card information, since it saves time. However, if anyone else uses your computer, they will also have access to your information. It's better to just take the extra few seconds to type in your information each time.
- Use your credit card online. Although debit cards are very useful, when shopping online, it is better to use a credit card online. This way, if you are the victim of a scam or fraud, the money has not yet been pulled from your account, and you can usually get protection from your credit card company.
- Use online protection. Firewalls prevent others from knowing which sites you visit online. Virus protection protects your computer against viruses. Anti-spyware prevents the information you type form being recorded.
- Shop at well-known sites. It's a good idea to do most of your online shopping at sites belonging to well-known companies. You can, however, check the credibility of other sites at buySAFE. Alternatively, do a search for reviews on the online retailers you are considering.
- Shop at secure websites. The URL of any secure website should begin with "https" instead of "http. Some websites will also have a key or padlock icon that appears on the screen, showing that your credit card number will be encrypted. Some valid retailers' websites do not use these measures, but many do.
- Ask about a virtual account. Many credit card companies now offer secure online account numbers. These give the customer either a one-time or permanent account number, reducing the chances of credit card fraud or identity theft.
- Never give out extra information. It is appropriate for the retailer to ask for your credit card number, expiration date, name, email address, street address, and phone number. However, if a retailer requests your social security number or driver's license number, do not buy anything from them. That is a sign of fraud.
- Always check your credit card statements. Carefully check your statements each month to make sure that you are not being charged for any purchases that you didn't actually buy. Contact your credit card company immediately if you find any mistakes.
Shopping online does not have to be scary! With a little common sense, shopping from the comfort of your home can make your life much easier!