Online sales in the U.S. amounted to $289 billion in 2012 with expectations of that number going much higher. In fact according to a study by Forrester Research Inc., Americans are projected to spend upwards of $327 billion online by 2016 or 9% of total retail sales. With so much commerce being done over the web, is it any wonder that criminals focus their sights on online shoppers. It only takes one misstep to have your bank account hacked or your identity stolen.
The accepted and most secure payment method for online purchases is credit cards. Read the terms and conditions for the details on the protections services they provide. Fill out a secure order form or use a service like PayPal that is connected directly to your credit card to enjoy the advantages of using a credit over any other form of payment:
• Extended Warranty Protection • Purchase Protection against defects, etc. • Zero liability for fraudulent transactions
• Opportunity to withhold payment, if a problem arises.
Online shopping is more likely to be compromised when you’re stressed or distracted, like during the holidays. Busy, hectic lives can make even the most conscientious person careless and vulnerable to theft. So, even if you only make an occasional purchase with a credit card and regardless of whether you shop at a local store or on the web, many of the same safety measures need to be put in place and into practice.
Secure Your Internet Connection
Before you even begin to shop online, you need to secure the connection that you’re using with an antivirus and malware software and a firewall. Don’t allow these services to go stagnant but keep them kept up-to-date. You can pay for a monthly plan and use one of the free services offered for private use.
Shop Only Secure Sites
Where you shop is just as important to your security as other protections you initiate. Avoid email solicitations from unfamiliar merchants. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Protect yourself by going with your gut and passing up any hard pressure sales pitch for unbelievable deals. Look for ‘https’ in front of the website URL in the address bar. This symbol designates that the site has the latest security protections in place. Also, look for the image of a padlock in the lower right corner of the website or at the corner of the URL bar that indicates the site uses Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology.
Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), if you’re at an unfamiliar merchant page. Look for the BBB seal and click it to confirm the legitimacy of the claim. Search the company name online and read customer reviews and comments.
Merchandise Return and Privacy Policies
Be sure to keep receipts, confirmation emails, along with product and company information for every online purchase. Review your credit card statement, reconciling all the charges with your purchases. Call the credit card company immediately upon finding suspicious or unauthorized account activity. If a problem arises with a purchase or business, contact the online merchant. If the problem is not resolved, bring the issue to your credit card company and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint.
Noreen Ruth is a contributor to numerous financial-related blogs and websites. She specializes in providing information on credit/debt management, comparing credit card offers, debt relief services, along with educating consumers about the latest rules and regulations, as well as ways to build, improve and maintain good credit.