Practicing safe shopping is no different from other healthy habits, you need to understand what to do and make it a routine. Some habits to adopt include:
• Use Familiar Websites – start your browsing at a trusted site. Major retailers all have a robust online presence. Be watchful for misspellings or an unexpected domain for the site (e.g. .com, etc.)
• Look for the Lock – when using your credit card online, only use sites with SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption. You can tell if a site is using SSL if the URL starts with HTTPS and a locked padlock icon appears to the left of the URL.
• Not Oversharing – avoid sharing your social security number or birthdate – they should never be required to shop online.
• Create Strong Passwords – when shopping or banking online, create strong passwords (many sites will rate a password when you create it) or use a password manager that creates unique strong passwords for each site and manages them for you.
• Check Your Statement Regularly – check your online account statements regularly for fraudulent transactions or those you don’t recognize; if you spot one contact your card issuer. When shopping online it is best not to use a debit card. In the event of a compromise, your related bank account could be accessed.
• Inoculate Your Computer – be sure your anti-malware and anti-virus software is up-to-date and turned on, and pay attention to any installation prompts – if the information doesn’t seem familiar, do your homework before hitting the install button.
• Privatize Your Wi-Fi – if you are shopping over public Wi-Fi use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect the data transmitted during your shopping transaction.
• Avoid Shopping Online In Public – credit card information entered in a café can be hijacked by someone watching from the next table.
• Think Mobile – using apps from major retailers avoids using websites or browsers.
• Check-out the Seller – if you are buying from an unknown seller, do your homework; check the Better Business Bureau and online reviews. But be careful, reviews can be misleading.
• Complain Loudly – if something bad happens, contact the seller and complain; call your credit card issuer and complain; report the incident to the FTC, the FBI, or your state’s consumer protection agency.
Your Safety and Confidentiality
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If you've been a victim of identity theft, file a complaint with the FTC by contacting the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline by telephone: 877.438.4338.
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