Knowing how to protect your personal information online is an essential skill for the 21st century. While it’s simply not possible for many of us to swear off the Internet altogether, being frivolous in your online shopping habits can cause serious, long term problems for you and your family, including identity theft and credit card fraud.
Trust Your Instincts
Never give your credit card information to a website or online retailer that does not appear to be secure or well maintained. If it gives you a bad feeling or has bad reviews, do not be blinded by a good deal.
Be cautious of websites asking for too much information for simple transactions. Remember, if something appears too good to be true, it probably is! Websites with weird addresses or tons of popups should also trigger caution.
Be Extra Cautious When On the Go
Smartphones and tablets can do just about anything that desktop and laptop computers can do, and many people have gotten used to doing just about anything from checking their work email to shopping and banking while they are out and about. It can be extremely convenient to send that EFT while its foremost in your mind, but it’s important to consider security before convenience.
Mobile devices can be hacked and compromised just like your desktop computer, so it is important to take care when browsing the web. Do not click on links from unknown emails or text messages, and avoid clicking shortened URLs from unknown websites or social media contacts. These shortened URLs make it much easier to spoof websites and steal your information.
If you must do something important from your mobile device, ensure you have adequate virus protection and do not use public Wi-Fi hotspots to connect. These public hotspots are often not encrypted, making them extremely easy to hijack. Any information sent over the internet through these hotspots can be intercepted and stolen by strangers.
Additional, be aware of your surroundings when online banking on your cell phone. Checking your balance while in a store is a positive convenience that cell phones offer, but that instant access can be seen by anyone around you. Ensure that your screen can not be seen by onlookers anytime you’re doing banking or shopping on your mobile device.
Use a Virtual Credit Card for Online Purchases
If you need to make a purchase from an unfamiliar or somewhat suspect website, use a credit card with a low limit, or ask your bank for a virtual credit card number. These temporary numbers are only valid for a certain amount of time and allow you to make a purchase without exposing your real credit card number to suspicious businesses.
Keep your Internet Browser Updated
Browser and operating system updates are essential in ensuring the safety of your personal information. New exploits are being discovered all the time and, in most cases, are patched long before they become a large problem. But these patches must be applied in a timely manner in order to prevent hackers from gaining access to your personal information.
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