Online shopping is a great way to get good deals and avoid the crowds. And using credit cards or PayPal to pay for your purchases is usually safe at reputable retail sites. But you’ve got to be careful out there, especially this time of year when scammers are in full swing. Here are some tips for keeping your shopping secure.
- Do not save your credit card info with the retailer. I know it’s a pain, but entering it each time is safer.
- The safest sites use a secure connection to transmit your credit card data. Look for https (instead of http) in the URL bar in your web browser.
- Be wary of sites that don’t ask for the security code for your credit card. That means they’re not verifying the card and may have lax security in general.
- Any site that asks for your social security number, driver’s license or other identity information (like your mother’s maiden name) is a scam. Get out!
- When using a search engine to find a store, make sure you have the spelling correct and look for “official site” next to the link in the search results. Scammers buy domains with common misspellings of popular sites and even duplicate the “look” of the site to get you to hand over credit card info.
- NEVER click on links in any email messages from banks or credit card companies. If you get an alert from your bank or credit card company go to the site directly.
- Same thing goes for emails from retailers – even those you trust. Go to the site directly to find the offer or use the code included in the email.
- I can’t say enough about using strong passwords for your bank and credit card online accounts. And, you should NOT use the same password for all of them. A trick I use is to take a phrase and use the first letter for each word. Then add a few numbers (NOT your house, phone, social security number or birth date), a couple of upper case letters and, if allowed, some special characters to make it at least 10 characters in length.
What to do if you think you may have given important information to a scam site?
- Keep an eye on the credit card you used to check for fraudulent charges. Report any you find right away by calling the number on the back of the card.
- If you gave out your social security number, you may want to consider subscribing to a credit monitoring service. But check with your current credit card company or bank first to see if they include any FREE monitoring services.
- Another thing you can do is check your credit report. You can get a copy free (once a year) at annualcreditreport.com, the official government sanctioned site. If you want to check your report more often, subscribe to one of the monitoring services or you can buy individual reports directly from them. But watch out – choose the “One Time” reports and not the plans which will commit you to a recurring monthly or annual payment.
Photo from BusinessInsurance.org