Do's and Don'ts for Safer Online Shopping

Before you wrap up your holiday shopping, take a quick glance down this list of tips designed to protect you - and your customers - from identity theft.

Do ...

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Use a Credit Card instead of a Debit card - Using Credit cards enables you to dispute the charges if you don't get the product that you purchased. With a debit card, you lose your money without dispute in case the deal turns sour.

Avoid wireless transactions- A fraudster in close proximity may sniff your personal information through a wireless connection. Teens and tweens are using sniffers, which can be found as freeware on the Internet

Ensure the Connection is Secure- Look for two signs on your connection browser to ensure a secure online purchase: the site address should read https or shttp instead of http, indicating a secure connection, and a small lock should appear in the browser toolbar at the bottom. Reputable online businesses offer additional protection for their customers such as "hacker safe" rating, "Google Checkout" or "PayPal Verified."

Never use public computers- Never make online purchases while sitting in Internet cafes and libraries. It's difficult to know who is keeping a watch on you physically or electronically. You can't tell what software has been installed on a public computer to keep a track on your usage. Key logging software is insidious and can't be detected.

Your homework -Getting feedback on the website you are planning to buy from is easy. You can read about the seller's reputation from other buyers by looking for their comments online. Look for a "trust mark" from a reputable organization to make sure the online retailer is reliable and has a proven track record of satisfying customers.

Understand the "Privacy Policy" -Find and read the website's privacy policy to understand what personal information is being requested as well as why and how it will be used. If the site doesn't have a privacy policy, then consider any information you provide them to already be sold, especially when it comes to email address, phone number and mailing address.

Understand the Transaction Terms- Before you complete the transaction, carefully read the merchant's policies concerning returns and refunds, shipping costs, and security and privacy protection.

Recognize Spam-! Beware of senders whose names you don't recognize, and look for typos and misspellings in the subject line. Also, "too good to be true" prices are possible spam too! Don't know how to spot a fake? Try spotting the fakes from the International AntiCounterfeting Coalition: .

Don't ...

Give out Your Personal Information-Your date of birth and where you live are enough for someone to set up a credit card in your name! Trusted websites will restrict from asking personal details online for a transaction.

Shop At Sites You Don't Trust- Shopping with websites of companies that you know and trust is the beginning of safe and hassle-free online shopping.

Respond To Unsolicited Email- Never confirm your billing information or your credit card information through an email -- because your information is probably not reaching a legitimate retailer. If you receive an email of this type, contact the company immediately.

Transact Unless You Are Sure a Site Is What It Claims To Be- Those genuine-looking websites may be fraud to lure you to give out your username and passwords. Look at the URL carefully and use a secure connection for your payment submission.

Forget To Review Your Monthly Credit Card And Bank Statements- You will be able to identify any errors or unauthorized purchases and also keep track of your account balance. In case of any disparity or unauthorized transactions, notify your card issuers immediately and call their customer service promptly.

Forget To Keep Records Of Your Online Transactions- You never know when you will need them for a refund or to file a dispute. All your transaction confirmation e-mails should be neatly organized in one folder for easy accessibility when needed.

Overlook Your System Security� Clean your computer with free online software that detects spyware, and install a firewall to ensure that sites you shop at don't install spyware on your computer.

About the Author

Linda McGlasson

Linda McGlasson

Managing Editor

Linda McGlasson is a seasoned writer and editor with 20 years of experience in writing for corporations, business publications and newspapers. She has worked in the Financial Services industry for more than 12 years. Most recently Linda headed information security awareness and training and the Computer Incident Response Team for Securities Industry Automation Corporation (SIAC), a subsidiary of the NYSE Group (NYX). As part of her role she developed infosec policy, developed new awareness testing and led the company's incident response team. In the last two years she's been involved with the Financial Services Information Sharing Analysis Center (FS-ISAC), editing its quarterly member newsletter and identifying speakers for member meetings.

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