Like anything else in life, shopping online can never be a perfectly safe undertaking. The good thing is that there are ways to protect yourself (and your finances) from less than honest individuals looking to snatch your hard-earned dollars out from under you.
Here are 6 online shopping habits you can avoid to keep yourself safe:
Sharing too much information
Most legitimate companies tell their customers that they will never ask for personal account details via email or online; however, that's not to say that you don't have to provide your credit card information when you're about to buy something, but it does mean you should be sure about what it is you're providing. If you don't feel comfortable with the details you're asked to provide, don't do it.
Doing business with people or companies you don't know
Only do business with people you know and trust. Having some familiarity with the company to whom you're providing your credit card or banking details goes a long way toward making the transaction safer.
Falling victim to phishing
Phishing is the name for those fake emails you may have received from a familiar company. It might have a company logo and may even use a company email address; it will ask you to click on their link and log into your account. The problem is that the website you're logging into isn't a legitimate site and you've just provided your log in and password to an identity thief. Read "What makes shopping online unsafe?" for more information about phishing.
Failing to use a secure site
According to the online resource, OnGuardOnline.com, a joint effort between the Federal Trade Commission (the government agency that manages identity theft problems) and the technology industry, you should never use a site that doesn't use encryption to keep all information safe. There are ways to determine site safety, read "What makes shopping online unsafe?" for more information.
Using someone else's computer or a public computer
Public computers in hotel business centers, Internet cafés, and libraries are great for surfing the Internet and printing out your boarding pass, but they're not the best places to be entering sensitive information like logins, passwords, or credit card numbers for two reasons. First, the computer owner may have a type of spyware that captures this kind of data—consider your own computer, how it saves your passwords and logins so that you don't have to remember them every time. Second, it's a public computer used by a lot of different people, some with the ability to lift any data you may have entered.
More ways to protect your identity