Protect yourself from identity thieves and other online retail scams
Most of us couldn’t do without the convenience of online shopping. Whether it means getting the best price on the latest video game or purchasing the perfect pair of shoes, online shopping gives us access to products, services, and special deals that might be unavailable to us otherwise.
However, online shopping has its risks. The popularityâ€”and profitabilityâ€”of online retail has resulted in unscrupulous people looking to take advantage of unwary shoppers. Their tactics may include:
With risks that differ from walk-in stores, online shopping requires special precautions. To protect yourself and your information, we have listed several steps to take before you type in your credit card information and click “Buy.”
Use a good anti-malware program
This may sound obvious, but many people ignore the advice to install anti-malware software. It is critical that online shoppers secure their PC from viruses and other attacks.
To ensure that your security program’s protection stays current, keep its virus and malware signatures up-to-date. Fortunately, most programs can automatically update these signatures, so be sure the automatic updating feature is enabled in your software.Â Â There are several good companies that do this, Norton being one of them.
Optimize your PC’s security settings
In addition to maintaining and updating your antivirus and antispyware protection, make sure your PC’s security settings are optimized. Many malicious programs are explicitly designed to take advantage of security vulnerabilities in operating systems and web browsers. Two simple ways to protect yourself:
Share payment information only with known or reputable vendors
The single best thing you can to do protect yourself is to be careful about who you’re giving your payment details to. If you’re not entirely sure whether the retailer you’re visiting is reliable, do some research to verify its authenticity and security.
Or use a third-party payment processor instead of giving your payment information directly to the online store. Most accept payment from trusted third-party processors, such as PayPal or Google Checkout. This limits the risk of your payment details getting into the wrong hands, because it is ultimately handled by fewer online entities.
Use a credit card instead of a debit card
Credit cards can be the safer choice for online shopping. If someone manages to intercept your financial information online, they can do less damage and you have more recourse than if you’d used a debit card. This is for two reasons:
Consider using a credit card with a low credit limit specifically for your online purchases. Some banks now offer “one-time use” or “virtual” credit cards that are designed specifically for online shoppingâ€”these are good only for one transaction from a specific vendor.
Print or save a copy of your orders
It’s always a good idea to keep documentation of your online purchases. Most retailers will send you an email or refer you to a web page with a confirmation of your purchase; this page should include a purchase receipt and a confirmation number. Print or save the confirmation and keep it until you receive your product.
Use strong passwordsOften, one of the most critical security steps is the one we give the least attention toâ€”our passwords. Passwords can be the best security defenses we have, but if they’re not created properly, a hacker can easily guess them. For any online shopping accounts you have, be sure to create good passwords.Â
Tips for creating a strong password
Check your statements often
To ensure that no unknown or fraudulent charges have been posted to your accounts, check your statements every month. If you see a charge that looks out of the ordinary, report it to your credit card company or financial institution immediately.
Remember: If it looks too good to be trueâ€¦The old-fashioned shopper’s rule of thumb “buyer beware” still applies to online purchases. If you’re being offered a top-of-the-line item for an unbelievably rock-bottom price, it may really be too good to be true. Do additional research about the vendor before buying. At very least, check for a phone number and street or mailing address so that if there are any problems with your order, you have someone to contact.
We at Safe Shopping Network hope between our tips a and our tested Safe Shopping Websites listed in the Safe Shopping Network directory will help you make a better decision on where to shop at online.Â