The Safe Online Shopper

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by Barbara J. Feldman on November 28, 2007

When shopping online chances are you are looking for efficiency, good prices and a wide selection, not to be a victim of credit card fraud or to fall for an online scam. Yet safety is the number one fear of people who choose not to shop online. And it is certainly a legitimate fear. Although those who are taken advantage of while shopping online only represent a small percentage of the total number of online shoppers, it is unwise to consider yourself immune to the possibility of becoming a victim. There are things that you can do to ensure that you are safe when shopping online. In doing the small precautionary things that are listed below, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you can drastically reduce your chances of being a victim. The suggestions listed here are very brief and you may want to research them further to see how they can be used most effectively in the way that you choose to shop online.

Protect your password — You should have a secure password that is unique to your online shopping. Do not use usernames or passwords that could be used as a master key to other online businesses that you conduct such as e-mail or personal banking. You should never use your pin as a password for another account. Nor should you use a password that would be easy to guess such as a birthday, pet or child’s name, or anniversary date. A secure password contains no words that could be found in the dictionary as well as a minimum of 2 numbers. Your password should also be case sensitive.

Use an online-only credit number — More and more credit card companies are making Internet specific credit card numbers available to customers. These specially issued numbers can only be used for online purchases and are in no way connected to your other credit or debit accounts. To date, one popular credit lender reports that there have been no incidents of fraud or theft among those who use this type of credit method correctly.

Look for the safety certificate — The SSL is responsible for awarding security certificates to websites that offer superior safety features to their customers. You can know whether or not the site that you are visiting has a security certificate by looking to see if there is a padlock symbol in the browser window and if the web address for the site you are on begins with “https” (not just “http”).

When it doubt, check them out — The Better Business Bureau Online is an excellent database source for finding our about various online companies. On this database you can read about the security features of registered sites as well as performance reviews of customers of those sites.

Charge it — You should never send cash or a check to anyone that you do business with over the Internet. Using your credit card is the safest method of payment. This is true because the Federal Trade Commission dictates that if your credit card is used fraudulently, the most that you will ever be responsible for of those fraudulent charges is $50. No such promise is made for any other method of payment including debit or check cards.

Shop with big name stores — Shopping with big name stores is almost always going to be a safer choice than shopping with smaller establishments simply because the big name stores have more resources available to ensure that your shopping experience is safe and big name stores have a lot more invested in their reputation for being a safe online vendor than do smaller vendors.


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