How to Protect Your Privacy When Shopping Online

Posted on 09/28/2010

According to data released by comScore, last year there were $595 million in Black Friday sales online, an 11% increase over Black Friday 2008 online. There’s no doubt that more and more we’re turning to the Internet to buy everything from cat food to computers. But just as the web is becoming more popular for shoppers, it’s also becoming more popular for thieves. Here are ways to protect your privacy when shopping online.

Look for the “S” - There are some signs that can indicate whether a website is processing your sensitive information safely. Before you enter your credit card number or personal details, take a look at the web address. The letter “s” should appear after “http” to indicate that a security measure is being used to scramble data that’s sent over the Internet.

Find the Padlock - Another clue that a website is secure is positioned in the lower right corner of the window or in the address bar. It’s a small closed padlock that will let you know whether a site is safe.

Monitor Cookies - Some websites track your web surfing and even obtain your email address by inserting a small file called a cookie onto your computer’s hard drive. It’s possible to prevent or limit the use of cookies by changing some settings on your browser. Check out for explanations on how to do this for various browsers.

Investigate Third Party Approval - There are certain third-party organizations that help give other websites credibility. If you see a seal from the Better Business Bureau or TRUSTe that’s an indication that you’re dealing with a legitimate website. However, some fraudulent merchants will use these logos without permission, so it’s best to check with the Better Business Bureau.

Update Your Browser - When web browsers are updated, typically the newest versions come with enhanced security features. So make sure you are running the most recent edition available.

Use a Browser Filter - Browser filters help warn you if a website contains malware that can steal your identity. For instance, for those using Internet Explorer, there’s the SmartScreen Filter, which keeps an updated list of phishing websites.

Use a Credit Card - Some experts say it’s best to use a credit card when shopping online. That’s because if you end up getting your identity stolen, you’re protected under the Federal Fair Credit Billing Act and won’t be responsible for charges that a crook racks up. It may also be a good idea to have a credit card used solely for online purchases so you can easily track fake charges.

Change up Your Password - Do you end up using the same password over and over? Some experts advise using a different password for making purchases. And they say to use a unique password for accessing online banking. The more unique your password is the less likely a thief will be able to figure it out.

By Alison Storm

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