tips for safe online shopping |
Another option is making purchases
through a third-party escrow service such as PayPal. Paypal Buyer
Protection covers qualifying eBay purchases for up to $1,000 at
no additional cost to buyers, helping to guarantee your purchase.
After any sale, be sure to print
and save all of your receipts and e-mail confirmations in case of
If you are reluctant to give out your credit card number over the
Internet, you have alternatives. Some card companies such as Discover
Card, Bank of America and Citi offer a secure online account
number service -- a virtual credit card or virtual account number.
Discover Card says since they first offered secure online account numbers they've "had no incidences of credit card fraud or identity theft in situations where hacking has occurred."
By providing merchants with a special
credit card number instead of your real number, your actual Discover
account number is never exposed to scammers. Check with your credit
card company to see if they offer this type of security feature.
Another security feature on the
horizon is a one-time-use password token. The technology has been
developed, but it's not in widespread use yet. To protect yourself,
be wise in your choice of passwords. Use a combination of letters
and numbers difficult to guess, says Chris Young, senior vice president
and general manager of the consumer solutions division at RSA Security,
a company that has developed password tokens. Don't use a word or
number someone else could figure out, such as your birthday or dog's
name. Change your password frequently.
Suspect the suspicious.
If you're at the checkout
page and the site asks for your date of birth and Social Security number, be very
"This combination can give
people enough information to start applying for new credit cards
in your name," Branigan says. What's scarier is the ease with
which driver's licenses can be purchased overseas -- they can be purchased
for as little as $100. If that scares you, remember a simple rule
of thumb: If anything seems suspicious, call the company and ask
be wary of sending out credit card information via e-mail or instant messaging,
says Branigan. Neither is encrypted. Copies can remain on your mail server as
well as theirs. Since you can't control who's looking at your information, stick
to the site's secure transaction page.
The final word
Moment of truth: Is online shopping safer than shopping offline?
The experts offer a silver lining to the cautionary warnings against
online identity theft and credit card fraud.
People should be aware that as
long as they are dealing with reputable companies, online transactions
are far more secure than the face-to-face transactions people perform
every day, says Stickley.
Online transactions eliminate the
middle man, such as the waiter who processes your credit card payment,
so there are less people who physically see your private information.
Consumers who research companies
before making purchases, watch for warning signs of fraud, use credit
cards for purchases and keep receipts should be relatively safe.
"They can be absolutely as
confident as physically shopping in a store," says Branigan.