Identify theft isn’t a pleasant experience. The shopping that led up to the thief’s ability to grab your information for his own unsavory use, was, of course, swell. But the discovery of the theft is not enjoyable. What’s more, it can take 40 plus hours of effort on your part to get everything back to normal. Shopping online is convenient, but also makes you more vulnerable than someone pounding the escalators at the mall. Nevertheless, you don’t have to give up shopping online, after all, there is something to be said for wearing bunny slippers while perusing sites searching for that perfect pair of stiletto heels. Simply take a few steps to beef up your online security and you can shop with peace of mind.
Choose Credit Over Debit
Contrary to popular belief, credit and debit are not interchangeable. It’s best to choose credit when shopping online because you have better protection. Most credit card companies cap your liability at $50. If a thief manages to snag your PIN and gets into your bank account via your debit card, they could drain your entire balance. Consider using a disposable credit card for added security. You simply add a certain dollar amount and get rid of the card when you reach the limit. What’s more, using only one card for all online purchases makes tracking down the source a lot easier.
Use Secure Checkout
Most legitimate websites will present a secure checkout page when it comes time to pay for your purchases. Other than telling you that you’re on a secure checkout page, signs that you are in a secure environment include parts of your credit card number being obscured as you enter it and the requirement to create a password prior to checking out. Never provide payment information via text message, instant message, or email. For added security, check for entire websites that are secure – not just checkout pages. Look for “HTTPS” at the start of a web address to signify that is a secure site.
Don’t Use Shortcuts
It can be tempting to allow a website to store your credit card information, especially if you shop there frequently. It can be equally tempting to click on “remember” when entering your username and password on your computer. Avoid the temptation in both cases. Any shortcuts you take can save a thief some time and effort, too. Additionally, saving anything on a website’s server leaves your information vulnerable to security breaches. Make sure you use different passwords for each site you frequently visit. You also want to avoid clicking on any links via an email. If you really want to visit a site you see in an email, copy and paste it into your browser.
Don’t ‘Shop’ in Public
If you’re going to make a purchase online, do it from the comfort of your own home. Public computers at the library or even your laptop accessed via a wi-fi connection can be vulnerable. If you’re shopping at the library, you have no control over who uses the computer after you. Even if you’re careful, someone can trace your history and take steps to access your account. If you don’t close your web browser, anybody can click backwards and find the sites you just visited. If you already made a purchase, your account info is likely still up.
There really is no way to stop all forms of identity theft, but you can greatly reduce your exposure. The best thing you can do is to take precautions to make your online shopping experience as safe as possible. This includes choosing credit over debit, using different passwords for each site, and looking for secure websites and secure checkout page. Follow these simple instructions and you can start looking for a handbag to match the stilettos.
Pamela Baker is a freelance blogger who writes about ways to protect yourself and your identity. If you are interested in keeping your home safe as well, go to securitysystems.net.