Online Security: Tips to Protect Yourself Whenever Making Online Purchases
Following these tips can help protect you from shady sellers, receiving faulty merchandise, or fraud
It can be a nearly impossible task to know exactly who you're dealing with when conducting any business online. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are still working hard to take advantage of you, and the tactics and technology they use is constantly evolving. While it's not possible to stop using the Internet these days, it is possible to protect yourself from becoming a victim of Online fraud.
- Check out unfamiliar sellers before making a purchase.
- Pay with a credit card to have additional protections.
- Use a secure browser connection every time you transmit sensitive information.
- Never pay using a money transfer service, such as Western Union or MoneyGram.
- Never pay using gift cards unless the gift card is for that particular merchant.
- Always keep records of your online purchases in case you have a problem.
- Watch out for "phishing" and "smishing" scams via email and text message.
Shopper complaints can give you enough information to keep you away from the bad guys. If you're not familiar with a seller, it's a good idea to look for complaints at the Better Business Bureau and check the seller ratings on auction or price comparison sites. Sites like eBay have feedback ratings for sellers, but you shouldn't always look for sellers who have a particular percentage rating. You should be more cautious of sellers who are new to the auction site or that have a low number of completed sales.
There are also many online sites where consumers share information about problems with companies and give feedback that can help you decide whether you want to do business with them.
Credit cards offer extra protections. If you pay with a credit card, you have the right to dispute the charges if the goods or services aren't delivered or were falsely described. It's safer to provide your credit card number online because you have the right to dispute the charges if someone intercepts the number and then fraudulently uses it. While you can also dispute unauthorized debits, you don't have the right to dispute debits if the goods or services were misrepresented or never arrived.
Note: Some debit card issuers will voluntarily credit the money, so be sure to ask if you become a victim. Some payment services such as PayPal offer "buyer protection" in case something goes wrong. Read how to qualify for these protections before using the services.
Look for "shttp" or "https" in the web address, which is an indication that the website encrypts the data you transmit. While using a secure browser connection isn't fool-proof, it's significantly less likely that your information will be intercepted by a third party. If your browser reports that there is a problem with the way the secure browser connection is configured or if the browser doesn't use this technology, don't go any further.
Thieves want you to send payments using a money transfer service, such as Western Union or MoneyGram, because they can get the cash fast and it's very hard to trace. Legitimate sellers won't ask you to pay that way. Money transfer services should only be used to send money to people you have met in person and know well, not to strangers.
Gift cards are the number one preferred payment method of thieves because the money is impossible to trace. If someone or a company is asking you to pay via a specific gift card, such as iTunes gift cards, stop immediately. If you put money on a gift card and then provide the gift card information to a thief, your money will disappear instantly and you can never get it back.
Always save or print documents related to your online purchases in case you have a problem. For larger purchases, it might be a good idea to both save them to your computer and print them in case the computer has a problem. When it comes time to prove a dispute to the credit card company or file a suit in court, you will need this documentation.
It should go without saying that sensitive information should never be sent via email or text message under any circumstances. Legitimate companies will never request information this way, and no company that already has your account information will ever message you to confirm it. Never click links or call phone numbers in emails or text messages that are asking for this type of information as you can download harmful software or expose your personal information to identity thieves.