Identity theft and credit card fraud are crimes that many of us are well aware of. With more and more opportunities to buy and sell online, it becomes more likely that a motivated thief could take advantage of us. Luckily there are things you can do to keep your credit card information safe when using it for online shopping.
Know the area
Good business practices that you would exercise in every day stores can be applied to businesses that you patronize over the Internet. If you were going to buy something from a store in your neighborhood, there are a few things that you would assess first. You would look around at the store to make sure that it looked clean, maintained and in order. You would make judgments about the associates that you saw working there. If there were suspicious characters in the store you would be more guarded when you pulled out your credit card to use it. Although you cannot see who you are dealing with over the Internet, you can gather information about your online vendor in other ways. You can look to see if the retailer has listed a physical location and address for their business. The business should have a phone number or a way that you could contact them if you needed to. See if the retailer has a return policy and what that entails. If you take a few moments to assess the situation beforehand, you will be much less likely to be taken advantage of.
Go somewhere safe
Internet retailers can take actions that will improve the security that they have for their customers. If you come across a store online that does not have security features in place, it is better not to do business with them at all. If the retailer does have some sort of security feature in place, they will make that fact known somewhere on the site. Other tell-tale signs a store has security measures in place includes the display of a “locked” icon. In addition, if the web address begins with https://, instead of the URL beginning with http://, this is an indication that the sight is using a secure server.
Ironically, despite the hype, paying by credit card is the safest way to purchase over the Internet. Encryption and validation technologies have made most transactions as secure as they can be. Additionally, under U.S. law your potential liability for unauthorized use of your credit card is limited to fifty dollars. Some credit card companies have begun to offer substitute credit card numbers that are valid for a single purchase. These single use card numbers then expire and cannot be used again. There is no way to protect a transaction made with checks, money orders or cash. By the way, you should never send cash if you are making an online purchase.
Keep record of your purchases
It is a good idea to print out the summary or purchase page whenever you buy something online. This is especially helpful if there should be any disagreement regarding payment or information from the retailer. You can choose to either print this record, save it to your hard drive, or to do both.
Keeping your credit card information safe when you are online is something that both you and the vendors that you will be doing business with are responsible for. You must be aware of the safety features and policies that are available from your online vendor. And vendors who want your business should be securing their sites to make the financial risks as small as possible for their buyers.