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Shopping Safely Online

Written by: Sara Coulter |

Online shopping is on the rise, and it's up to you to keep yourself safe.  Find out how.

Online shopping is becoming more and more popular.  There's not much you can't get on amazon, and handmade has become the new trend in gifts.  Unfortunately, when we shop online, we also give up personal information, and it's pretty scary what smart hackers can do with that info. We all think we’re doing everything we can to protect ourselves, until we get hacked – which is what happened to me…twice.

Check out the following online shopping tips, and make sure that you are doing everything you can to stay safe online.

Just Browsing.

 Know your seller. If you’re not already familiar with the seller, confirm their physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems. And if you get an email or pop-up message that asks for your financial information while you’re shopping, don’t reply or follow the link. Legitimate companies don’t ask for information that way.

Check the privacy policy. It should let you know what personal information the website operators are collecting, why, and how they’re going to use the information. If you can’t find a privacy policy — or if you can’t understand it – consider taking your business to another site that’s more user-friendly.

Pay attention. If, at any time during your visit, your internet certification process warns you to be careful of a site that might be falsely taking your confidential details, don’t go any further.

close-up of credit card


Ready to Buy.

Use secure websites when it's time to pay. Ensure that your credit card details are going to be processed using a secure connection. The most common form of secure encryption is known as Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL for short. SSL encrypts data and breaks it up into small pieces so that the information can’t be read by anyone wanting to intercept it.

  • To check that your place of purchase is using SSL or secure technology there are a few things to look out for in your Internet browser:
  • Depending on your browser settings you may receive a message stating that you are entering a secure area. The secure area normally begins on the first page where you enter personal details.
  • Most often the address bar in your browser will change from starting with http to https. The “s” indicates that the site is secure, but note that often you won’t see the “s” until you are on the order page itself.
  • You can also look out for a padlock symbol in your browser symbolizing the page is secure. The padlock should be closed. If it is open, assume the site is not secure.

Pay by credit card. When shopping online, credit cards tend to offer more protection than debit cards, as they don’t directly remove funds from your own bank account. Also, if you pay by credit card online, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act (in the US). Under this law, you can dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them.

In the event that someone uses your credit card without your permission, your liability generally is limited to the first $50 in charges. Some companies guarantee that you won’t be held responsible for any unauthorized charges made to your card online; some cards provide additional warranty, return, and purchase protection benefits.

An increasing number of online stores now request a CVV or card verification number when making a purchase. The CVV code is the small code shown on the signature bar on the back of your card. Normally the last three digits of the code are required. This is to prevent someone who has managed to get your name, card number and expiration date from being able to make purchases using your card.

Transaction Complete!

Keep Records. Print or save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the seller. Read your credit card statements as you receive them; be on the lookout for charges that you don’t recognize.

woman sitting at laptop holding cell phone

I’ve Been Robbed!

Contact your bank. If you find that someone has either charged or attempted to make charges using your credit or debit card, call your bank and close the affected account(s) immediately. In the best-case scenario, you will be able to shut down or change any credit card, bank, or other online service accounts before they can be leveraged by the thief. Err on the side of safety: a little more trouble taken up front to freeze or change accounts can save you much more effort later in disputing fraudulent purchases made by a cybercriminal.

While you have your financial institution on the phone or access to them in person, discuss any impact this potential fraud might have on your account and the steps you would need to take if the account was compromised during the attack. For example, how can you dispute fraudulent charges? Or how can you recover the stolen funds?

Good luck, and happy shopping!

We certainly hope we didn't scare you by bringing up cybercrime AGAIN!  Just in case you're a little spooked about shopping online, you can pick up a prepaid Visa card and use that online!  No risk, and your own credit isn't exposed.  Just stop in to any of our branches and ask our staff!




Topics: Security, Business, Investments, Entertainment, Personal

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