When it comes to price, selection, and convenience, very few things can compare with online shopping. But don’t let the benefits lull you into a false sense of safety and complacency. If you’re not careful, you may find yourself a victim of identity theft and fraud. Here are some security tips and best practices to follow for your next online shopping trip:
Not all plastics are the same
When making your online purchases, keep in mind the built-in fraud protection offered by your credit card, which is unavailable from a debit card. Certain restrictions and differences may apply depending on your credit card issuer, but with a credit card the amount of personal financial liability you have for fraudulent purchases is low to none. However, stolen debit card information can lead to a thief clearing out your checking account before you even learn there’s a problem, as well as provide none of the fraud insurance found on a credit card. Although it may be possible to recover your money, it can take a while to file a claim, and you may not get it all.
Another card option available is using a prepaid credit card. Prepaid credit cards work by adding a specified dollar amount to the card, which you then can use much in the same manner as you would a gift card. Once the balance is gone, you can add more, or simply dispose of it and purchase a new one. Prepaid cards are available for purchase at many retailers and possesses the intrinsic benefit of anonymity since your personal information is not associated with the card itself. Criminals would only be able to steal whatever value is left on the card.
While trying to find the best deals online might take up the majority of our thoughts when shopping, it’s important to also keep in mind the security of the websites themselves. Not all websites come with the same level of security and confidence. Whereas a large retailer’s website might come with a litany of security measures and protocols, a small “out-of-home” store might not have the capabilities or see the need to offer secure shopping. Opportunistic criminals might in turn be able to steal information that you provided, including things such as your personal and credit information. In order to identify if the website you’re on is secure, the URL will start with https:// instead of http://. Secure sites also have a small lock icon in the lower right corner of the screen.
Avoid public networks
With the increasing popularity of working at cafes or other social locations, the urge to take care of some online shopping while you’re out and about can grow quite high. However, if you do plan to make any purchases, it’s best to do it at home. Public access points and public computers provide thieves with the chance to comb the network and steal all kinds of information. You also run the risk of having all kinds of spyware, malware, and bloatware infect your computer. So, if you really need some online retail therapy, your best bet is to wait until you get home.
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