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How do I shop safely online?

aliases, attacks, credit cards, fraud, Malware, online, safety, security, shopping, tips, transactions, virus

Question

I am very tempted to buy stuff online  but am concerned about the safety of my transactions.

 

What should I do to ensure that my data is transmitted safely and that my info is not misused? 

 

Answer


Here are some important things to take note of:


Before you start shopping, ensure that:

  • If your antivirus software license has expired, either renew the license or uninstall it and download and install a replacement solution.  (If the replaced antivirus was a "security suite", be sure to activate the Windows Firewall when uninstalling.)
  • Now run a full system scan with your updated antivirus software.
  • Next, scan with an anti-malware software.  If you do not have an anti-malware software, a couple of popular solutions are Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware and SUPER AntiSpyware.
  • Check for and install Security Updates, including third-party software such as Adobe Flash and Java.
  • Be sure you are using an updated browser.  Each version release includes security updates.


Once the above is done, here are tips on how you can protect your credit:

 

  • Make sure your operating system and "web-facing" applications like your web browser, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash and Java are up-to-date.  This way, in the event the online store has been compromised by an attacker, the likelihood of your computer being further exploited as a result is lower.
  • Check the privacy policy of the online store for any "gotchas" like their selling or providing your contact information to affiliated third parties.  While the online store may be legitimate, some of their affiliates may use questionable marketing tactics
  • It's best to stick with established companies that you are already familiar with and use.  If a company is new to you, check the reputation o ft heir online store by checking with organizations such as the Better Business Bureau or TRUSTe.  Don't just rely on the online store displaying a logo—anyone can copy that, including fraudsters.  Open a new tab or window in your web browser, find the organization behind the logo and verify the online store's listing there yourself. You can also visit your favorite search engine and type in search terms like "{company name} + reputation" and "{company name} + scam".
  • When checking out, make sure your web browser make s a secure connection via SSL.  In the address bar, you should see the address begin with https://, instead of http://, to show that a secure connection has been made.  Additionally, the address bar may change to a light green color to show when a secure connection has been established, depending upon which web browser you use.
  • If you have to create an account to make a purchase from an online store, make sure you use a unique and memorable passphrase for it.  Do not use the same password as you use for your email, financial institution, or other services, one that may be easily guessed, or allow your other passwords to be guessed.
  • When checking out, use a credit card, debit card or other payment system which indemnifies you against loss from fraudulent activity.  If you are not sure whether your bank card or payment system offers this, check with their customer service department.
  • Do not use a public Wi-Fi hotspot to make your purchase, or even for accessing your shopping cart.  Instead, use a secure connection at home or, if allowed, from work (check with your IT department first to see if unsure).

Additional tips:

  • Some banks now have and have had temporary cards (temp credit and bank cards/card number) that are good for one transaction, which makes it good for shopping online.
  • Another option for Hotmail users is to create a Hotmail alias, although there is a limit of creating up to five e-mail aliases in your Hotmail account each year.  (Illustrated instructions on how to use Hotmail aliases here.) 
  • Always remember to watch out for emails asking for more personal information or claiming to confirm purchases. If you receive these, and have any questions regarding these types of requests, it would be prudent to contact the merchant directly to confirm just how legitimate such follow-ups are.