How to Safely Shop Online

The ease of online shopping makes it an alluring option for any consumer. Why fight the crowds and lines of busy stores when you can purchase your desired product with just a few simple clicks? Yet, sending your sensitive payment data into cyberspace is always a bit nerve racking. Through nefarious methods such as keyloggers and phishing schemes, cybercrooks are continuously finding ways to steal data from online shoppers. To ensure that your online transactions are secure, follow these preventative measures for a safe shopping experience:

-       Use credit cards for online transactions. Credit cards are the least risky form of online payment because they guarantee fraud protection. Due to The Truth in Lending act, a consumer’s maximum liability for unauthorized credit card use is $50 (and the liability drops to zero for online use). If you report the fraud immediately, there is typically little resistance in reversing the charges. Other payment options, including debit cards and payment services like PayPal, carry greater risks, depending on the amount of time that lapses after a fraudulent transaction occurs. If you’re interested in learning more, this New York Times article presents a detailed overview of every type of online payment.

-       Use the latest internet browser when shopping online. The latest browsers, such as Safari or Internet Explorer, have built-in encryption technology that will protect your data during online transactions. This technology involves a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, an Internet security protocol used to transmit sensitive data. To ensure that you are using an SSL during online transactions, make sure that the “http” at the beginning of the URL has changed to “https” because that signals that the transmission is being encrypted. Additionally, there should be a small lock icon at the bottom of the browser window in the status bar.

-       Check for digital certificates. Digital certificates from security companies like VeriSign are used to authenticate websites, so make sure that the site you’re shopping on has one. For additional protection, click on the logo to verify that the certificate is legitimate.

-       Read the privacy policy. Carefully read the privacy policy on the site you’re using to check that the company won’t sell your information for any purpose.

-       Check your email and credit card statements. Check for a confirmation email after completing any online transaction to verify the purchase. Also, check your credit card and bank statements to check for any fraudulent charges. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, be sure to report it right away.

-       Never give out sensitive data! Finally, (and possibly most importantly) never give out your passwords or user ID information to any unknown source. Only enter your information into a secure website after verifying its authenticity using the steps listed above. 

For a comprehensive overview of identity theft, check out HowStuffWorks, and read related posts here by clicking on the term “identity theft” in the Tag Cloud.

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