Online Shopping Security

Shopping with a credit card online can often be safer than in-person transactions these days. Many online marketplaces come with their own security systems and safeguards to keep your personal and credit information safe.

But there are still security breaches all the time on the web. These include everything from small-time scams and fraud targeting individuals or small groups, to worldwide data breaches. In a single case in 2013, online thieves were able to steal the credit and debit data of about 40 million customers from a large U.S. retailer.

While it's impossible to keep your information completely secure at all times while shopping on the rapidly-changing and expanding internet, there are best practices to ensure your odds of a fraud attack go down dramatically.

Don't Use Your Card Over Email.

There's no reason, ever, to give your credit card information to any individual or company over an email. Even years after the first email attacks in the 1990s, an email is still the favored way for many scam artists to try and commit credit fraud or steal your personal information.

The web is crawling with spam emails sent by the thousands every day, asking for you to give your name, your address, your card numbers and other personal and financial data. No matter how legitimate the source, don't respond to an email with your credit card information. If you need to give a trusted source your credit information, find another way — don't ever assume that your email is secure and can't be hacked.

Check the URL.

Think you're shopping on Amazon, eBay, Walmart.com? Make absolutely sure you're not on a clone site. A clone site copies the design and content of your favorite online retailers illegally, often in order to steal personal and financial data. This can be a particularly devilish problem if you're searching for a product on a search engine like Google or Bing, or if you’ve clicked a link from an email you've received.

Scammers are always looking for ways to bring you to sites that secretly steal your personal information while pretending to be reputable. Check the URL at the top of your web browser and make sure it's the right web address, and not a fake URL. Don't click links in emails you don't trust. Most email services, such as Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo, will try to ferret out illegitimate emails with bad web addresses buried in them. Don't open emails that have arrived in your Spam folder unless you're sure you know the sender.

Use Sites You Know.

If you're searching for something to buy online, and you land on a page you don't recognize with a company you've never purchased from, check the site before going further. A simple online search can reveal a lot. Customers just like you who've been scammed before are out there posting up-to-date information online about which companies and websites are legitimate and which are not. Empower yourself with this information. If you see multiple sources labelling a certain website a scam online, don't shop there.

Change Your Password.

Most leading online marketplaces ask you to create custom username and password information in order to make purchases faster. Inside your personal account on these websites, you may store your personal info (such as your name, address, phone number and email address) as well as your credit card number and billing info. That makes your online account a virtual treasure trove for thieves looking to use your credit card to make unauthorized purchases.

The best way to prevent these unauthorized purchases is to change your password regularly. Keep your passwords safe and don't share them over email. Take your password information on shopping websites as seriously as you would on a bank website.

Look for Trusted Security Systems.

Global leaders in internet security, such as Verisign and TRUSTe, are often used on leading marketplace websites to help keep your account information protected. It's always a good sign if you see these security systems being employed on a website where you do your shopping.

You should also use a leading antivirus software on your own computer, such as those available through Norton or Symantec. Remember that many computer viruses these days are designed solely to steal your personal and financial data from your computer.

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