Shopping Safely 24/7
By Cindy Sumner
Who among us hasn’t wished she could do something productive with those late night or early morning hours when the baby has finally nodded off and we can’t get back to sleep? What about shopping? The Internet never closes, and you don’t have to deal with strollers, cranky kids or disapproving looks from others when your child plays peek-a-boo in the clothing racks.
Many moms wonder about security when ordering off the Internet–there are safety issues but probably no more than with other types of purchases, if you are careful. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lessen the danger of fraud and identity theft. Here are ten ways to protect yourself, no matter what time you choose to shop.
- Use companies you know. Don’t place orders on websites without the merchant’s name, address and phone number. If you are unsure about the authenticity of a site, increase your shopping confidence by checking to see if the company is a member of Better Business Bureau online. Still uncomfortable? From the website, copy the phone number to place an order and call in your purchase.
- Read the fine print. Take the time to read the merchant’s online “terms and conditions” statement and understand its return policies. Often your protection is less than if the same product were purchased in a store.
- Make the transaction secure. Before entering personal and payment information, make sure you are using a secure server. Here’s two ways to tell: the website address in the address bar begins with “https” (not http), and the padlock at the bottom of the Internet window is closed.
- Create unique PINs and passwords. When making up a PIN or password, do not use any part of your social security number, date of birth, family names or your address. If possible, these codes should be more than seven characters long, include upper- and lower-case letters, and mix letters and numbers.
- Minimize access to your information. Take the time to “opt-out” of receiving notices of special offers from the merchant, and do not conduct business with websites that share your information with others.
- Credit cards are best. Using a credit card (instead of a debit card) to pay for your purchases may limit your liability for unauthorized charges. At the very least, the money will not have already been deducted from your checking account should you dispute fraudulent charges.
- Print a paper trail. When prompted to print a receipt of your online transaction, do it! Keep your confirmation or receipt as proof of purchase, as well as for warranty purposes.
- Follow-up on charges. Check credit card and bank statements carefully to verify that charges are the correct amount and were, in fact, made by you.
- Type in addresses. Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails. Locate a merchant’s website address through a reputable search engine or type in the known address yourself.
- Stay up-to-date. Use the most current version of your browser, and protect your computer with up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software.