Smarter and Safer Online Shopping

Online Transactions

In the past two decades, as more online shopping options have become available, identity and credit card theft have also become more common. So choosing smarter and safer online shopping methods is crucial in protecting you from identity fraud. Reliable online payment methods, such as PayPal and established online merchandisers like Amazon.com and eBay, safeguard customers from identity theft by using advanced data encryption technology.

One of the most popular forms of online payment is through PayPal. Formed in 1998 and later purchased in 2002 by online auction giant eBay, PayPal currently has over 110 million registered users and accepts 25 different currencies. It works by linking users’ PayPal accounts to their bank accounts, so that they may use PayPal in order to pay for items sold by online retailers. Although there are other online payment processing companies such as PayLane, PaySimple and 2Checkout, most merchants use PayPal.

Keeping your financial information protected is of the utmost importance when shopping online. Reliable companies like PayPal use multiple layers of protection, including secure data encryption, servers that are not connected directly to the Internet, a team of anti-fraud experts and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology. You can verify the security of a website by looking for a padlock symbol in the lower right corner of your browser or changing the website address from “http” to “https.” Additionally, many online merchandisers have begun to require their customers to input a card verification value (CVV) or card security code when making purchases.

After customers have chosen their online processing company, they frequently have a range of shipping options. Most merchants will ship items via UPS or the United States Postal Service. Merchants also frequently charge an additional shipping cost, but some vendors may choose to reduce the cost of shipping depending on the number of items that are purchased. Products bought online through the website of a brick-and-mortar retailer, such as J.Crew or Crate and Barrel, can frequently be shipped to the nearest store for pick up. In addition to brick-and-mortar retailers, there are several dependable online merchandisers, such as Amazon.com and eBay.

Reliable Online Shopping

Amazon.com was first launched in 1995 as an online bookseller. In the past decade, it has grown to become the world’s largest online retailer, selling virtually any product, from DVDs to kitchen appliances. Like Amazon.com, eBay was also founded in 1995 and had its beginnings as an online auction company. Today it is an online marketplace serving more than 100 million users around the world, which includes individual buyers, sellers and small businesses.

Regardless, when purchasing any item online—whether it is through an established or less known vendor—proceed with caution, especially if you receive a warning about the site’s security certificate. As an online shopper, you can further protect yourself by never sharing your password or giving out personal information, such as your social security or checking account number. Most online vendors will only ask for your name, shipping/billing address and credit card number.

Problems When Shopping Online

Unfortunately for online shoppers, there is always the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft, as hackers can intercept and steal customers’ personal and financial information. Sometimes online shoppers also encounter dishonest vendors who take online payments but never send out the purchased merchandise. Finally, some customers may face invasions of privacy from websites that ask for personal and financial information, even before a user enters the website. Avoiding the sharing of passwords or private information, as well the safeguarding measures offered by reputable online companies, can help lower the chance of identity theft.

However, if you do experience identity fraud while shopping online, you should immediately call your bank, your creditors and the major credit reporting bureaus. Additionally, you can file a report with your local police and inform the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of all fraudulent activity. If you have additional questions on secure online shopping, there are several reputable resources you can use.

Additional Resources:

Consumer Action News— Their Internet commerce issue is free and covers the most important aspects of shopping and safety online.

Federal Trade Commission — This government site provides tips for online safety, as well as relevant articles and consumer alerts.

ECommerce Times — An online magazine tailored to e-business owners but with numerous articles about online shopping, scams and fraud.

United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) — Provides alerts, bulletins and tips for keeping your information safe while online.