Online shopping is convenient and often less expensive than going to a store. You won’t have to pay for gas to drive to the mall, you can get online exclusive deals, and you may even avoid sales tax depending on where you live. Making payments online can open you up for a world of potential headaches, however. In the wrong hands, your credit card number or checking account information might lead to you becoming the victim of thousands of dollars of fraudulent charges that you don’t know about until it’s too late. Here are some tools that can help you to shop online securely.
Use Anti-Virus Protection
When you are under the protection of an Anti-Virus program like SparkTrust, your computer can detect when a site has compromised security or it’s not safe to enter payment information. This can stop you in your tracks before you make a purchase on a site that is unsafe. Anti-Virus software can also detect when someone tries to access your computer via an email link that is pretending to be from a reputable shopping site, or other malicious attempts for people to steal your information.
Look for a Security Lock
Once you’ve put items into your online shopping cart and are about to move on to purchasing, you should see a gold lock in the URL field. Depending on your browser, the symbol may also appear somewhere near the bottom of the screen. In any case, this is a sign that the payment pat is secure and your data will be adequately encrypted. If you don’t see this symbol, don’t make a purchase on that website. It’s either an insecure site or has been temporarily compromised.
Check the URL
Sometimes scam sites pop up that are made to look like a legitimate site. Always manually type the URL of the website you want to visit into the browser, as opposed to clicking on an email link or a link on another site. Sometimes spoof sites are set up to look like a major retailer. In reality, these sites only exist to steal your payment information and potentially your identity. Instead of clicking on an email link to The Gap from a promotion email, for example, type “http://www.gap.com” in your web browser just to make sure you’re accessing the real deal.
Shop Over a Secure Connection
Avoid doing your online shopping in a coffee shop or anywhere you’re not logged into a secured connection. This allows someone to use the open wireless Internet network to hack into your computer remotely and potentially steal personal information. Always password protect your own home Internet network and use that network to shop. If you are at friend’s home or work where you know that the connection is password protected, you are also safe to make purchases there.
In addition to exercising the above precautions, it’s wise to use a credit card when you shop online. If you pay via a debit card linked to your checking account, or provide a checking account number, you may not have the same fraud protections. A major credit card will generally reimburse you for fraudulent charges while your bank may not have the same policy.