Protect Your Identity While Shopping Online
In order to keep your identity safe when shopping online, shop at retailers who use technology to securely transmit your personal information and financial data. Secure websites encrypt your sensitive information while it is being sent to the payment processor. This process keeps data safe from hackers and identity thieves.
On secure web pages; the address will begin with "https://", rather than the unsecure "http://". Another sign that a website is secure is the presence of a locked padlock in the lower left corner of the browser.
Shop with Merchants You Know and Trust
Only conduct your online business with trusted companies. That's not so say you can't shop at new online stores, but it pays to do a little research before placing your trust – and possibly your identity – into the hands of an unknown and unfamiliar merchant. Trusted online companies provide a business address and contact number on their websites.
Credit Cards: The Safest Payment Method
Consumers who pay for purchases with credit cards are protected by the Federal Fair Credit Billing Act. This law allows cardholders to dispute charges in the event that something goes wrong with the purchase after paying by credit card. No other type of payment offers this type of consumer protection.
Provide Only Necessary Information Online
For some reason, some online stores and vendors will attempt to collect far more information from consumers than is actually necessary to complete the transaction. This is a red flag, as the information will most certainly be used for marketing in the best cases, and possibly identity theft or fraud in the worst cases. Never provide a Social Security number to an online vendor unless applying for a line of credit.
Phishing and Imposter Websites
Online identity thieves are constantly coming up with new tricks to commit fraud and theft online. One known trick that is popular with fraudsters is called phishing. Phishing websites look like popular, familiar sites, but are set up to trick consumers into submitting personal information, credit card numbers, PIN, passwords or account numbers. Often consumers arrive at these fake sites through a link sent to them via an official looking, yet fake, e-mail. Check the URL of a website before providing any personal information.
Keep Records of Online Purchases
Merchants usually e-mail customers an order confirmation and receipt after an online purchase.
These e-mails should be kept, along with a printed copy of the company information, terms and conditions and the sales and order pages of the Web site. These records should be kept on file until the return period or warranty on the purchase expires.
Be Cautious and Aware
Although there are many dangers online and no shortages of scammers, if you are aware of the dangers, know how to identify and check for fraud and take proper precautions, online shopping can be safe.
It pays to follow your gut, and if something looks suspicious, do not proceed with any transaction or login. By following recommended precautions and being aware of your online activity, you should be able to safely shop online.