1. Use a credit card that guarantees you 100% protection from online fraud. In some cases, without this protection, you can be held liable for the first $50 in charges. NEVER use your ATM/Check card for online shopping. If a thief gets that number they can wipe out any bank accounts that are attached to it. Although you will likely get your money back from the bank eventually, you could be without it for several days during which time you may have bounced checks to deal with and other financial problems.
2. Make sure that the online merchant secures and encrypts your transaction when you are providing your personal and credit card information. If you do not the small lock/key symbol at the bottom of your browser window, as well as an address that begins with https, instead of http, then you are not at a secure site. Do not enter any personal information. Look for the product at a different web site instead.
3. Read the web site’s privacy and security policy. If they don’t have one posted, shop somewhere else. You need to be sure that your personal information will not be sold or given to any third parties..
4. If you’re not shopping at a well know, brand name merchant, then check out the site’s reputation with the BBB, or a consumer rating site like BizRate.com.
5. Make sure that you print a copy of your order confirmation page and save it in case there are any disputes when your bill comes or in the event that your order never arrives.
6. Never give any password to anyone for any reason. Sometimes con artists will call or email you and tell you that they need your credit card number, or password, to fix some “problem” with your account. Get their name and number and call the actual company (not the number that they gave you) and verify that this person is authorized to receive this information from you.
7. Don’t use the same password everywhere you shop. If someone discovers it they can do serious damage by visiting every site where you have an account and logging in as you. Also, NEVER use the same password for shopping as you use for your ATM PIN or your on-line bank access.
8. Try to designate one credit card for all of your online shopping. This way you know that any charges that hit that card came from purchases that you made online. It’s easy to quickly check the statement and identify anything that’s suspicious.
9. If a merchant’s registration form requires you to enter your date of birth and social security number just to shop with them, RUN AWAY! The easiest way to have your identity stolen is to give this information to the wrong people. There is no reason that a merchant needs this information to allow you to shop.
10. If you use a Visa card, see if your bank participates win the “Verified by Visa” program. This Visa-sponsored initiative lets you create a secondary password that identifies you as a legitimate card holder to the Visa network. Also, some credit cards, like American Express, have a program where they can issue you one-time use account numbers, tied to you credit card, that you can use for online transactions. You can get any quantity of these numbers issued to you at no charge. You enter these numbers instead of your actual credit card numbers. Once a number is used, it cannot be reused anywhere else.
It is always critical that you take steps to protect yourself when shopping on line. The Internet can be a scary place when someone gets your personal credit card information.