Shopping online has become very common, as an almost limitless number of products and services can be obtained through the Internet. The convenience of shopping online makes it appealing for those who don't want to take the time to physically go out and shop for items that may not be available locally. But shopping online is not without some level of danger. According to Federal Trade Commission estimates, upwards of 9 million Americans have their identity stolen every year. Here are some tips for shopping online safely:
Reputable vendors. Safer online shopping typically starts with reputable vendors that have a known Internet presence. Consumers can start to run into trouble when they buy from unknown companies that have limited data on their websites. Be aware of phishing scams, which typically take the form of emails from scammers who masquerade as a recognized company. Before clicking on a link or providing any sort of personal information, take the time to do some research and verify what is being presented. Don't be enticed by what seems like a great deal and forget to check on the legitimacy of the claim.
Shared computers. Protecting accounts is an important step in staying safe. Shopping from a shared computer, such as one at work or at a library, may not be the best idea. Data may be temporarily stored on those computers, and if you walk away without logging out of an account, you may leave yourself open to financial compromise. A safer bet is to shop at home, if possible, and be sure to have virus or malware software to protect your information.
Encryption and security. There is a level of security attached to online buying, and many sites will encrypt data before it is sent. This is obviously adequate in most cases, but make sure a company actually has a level of protection in place. In addition, understand that hackers can get into company data, even if it is protected. The same goes for virus and malware software on a home computer, which should be updated on a regular basis.
Ultimately, there is no such thing as completely safe online shopping. However, the same could be said about using a credit card at the mall or sending a check through the mail. Mistakes and theft can occur in a complex world of commerce. Using common sense, and taking a few precautions will, in most cases, allow you to shop online safely and securely.