Online shopping can be a convenient and fun activity, provided you take a few precautions to ensure that your information and money stay safe. Take the time to review these tips on what to do when making a purchase in order to have the best experience possible.
When Making a Purchase:
- Don't shop at a site if you're not comfortable—If you feel that the site may not be secure, you're probably right. Little things such as misspellings, requests for excessive personal information, and low-resolution logos and photos may be warning signs.
- Never click on links from spam emails to make purchases—It's always a bad idea to click on a link in an email from someone you don’t know, but it's particularly dangerous if you buy on a site advertised in a spam email. Always try to use a search engine to locate legitimate e-tailer sites.
- Check the web address to make sure you are on the correct site—Once you arrive at a site, you need to make sure that it is legitimate and not a fake or spoofed version.
- Check that the site is secure—Look for a security seal, such as the McAfee SECURE trustmark, indicating that the site has been scanned and verified as secure by a trusted third party. This security seal indicates that the site will protect you from identity theft, credit card fraud, spam and other malicious threats.
In addition, check to see if the site uses encryption—or scrambling—when transmitting information over the Internet by looking for a lock symbol on the page and checking to make sure that the web address starts with "https://”, rather than “http://” which indicates that encryption is being used.
- Use a credit card or an online payment service—If the site turns out to be fraudulent, your credit card company will usually reimburse you for the purchase; and in the case of credit card fraud, the law should protect you. Some credit card companies even offer extended warranties on purchases. With debit cards, it can be more difficult to get your money back and you don’t want your account to be drained while you’re sorting things out with your bank.
Another option savvy shoppers sometimes use is a one-time-use credit card, which includes a randomly generated number that can be used for one transaction only. If the number is stolen it cannot be used again. Using this type of credit card also ensures that a thief does not have access to your real credit card number.
Online payment services, like PayPal also offer another way for you to pay for your online purchases. These services let you pay with an account from the online payment service, without having to share your bank or credit card information with e-tailers.
- Do not use a public computer to shop online—Computers save or “cache” information to speed up your Internet experience. And, if you are using a public computer, information such as your browsing history and even your login information may be accessible to strangers who use the computer after you. If you leave the computer without logging out of certain sites, others might be able to access your accounts. To protect yourself, do all of your online shopping from your secure home computer.
- Only use a secure connection when you place your order—Never shop using an unsecured wireless network because hackers can access your payment information if the network is not protected.
- Use strong passwords—Choose passwords that are difficult to guess and are at least 10 characters long consisting of a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols. Remember to keep your passwords private and don't set your computer to remember your credit card number or password when you create an account on an online shopping site.
Also, don’t enter your personal information into popups or at any web page that asks for personal details above and beyond standard requests. For example, you should never have to reveal your Social Security number to an online shopping site.