Shopping online has never been easier and more accessible. Add in the widespread use of mobile phones and mobile-friendly e-commerce sites, and consumers have nearly everything they could want at their fingertips. Online shopping does, however, pose security risks to your financial information that in-store shopping doesn’t necessarily have.
While it’s nearly impossible to protect your financial information online completely, there are some things that you can do to keep your information as safe as possible. Below are three suggestions that can help you make smart decisions regarding where you input and store your financial information online.
1. Use a Credit Card Whenever You Can
The major difference between credit cards and debit cards is that debit cards are using your actual money in real-time once you swipe your card or click the “pay now” button. Credit cards, on the other hand, are letting you purchase items on borrowed money with the promise that you’ll pay it back. For this reason, you should use a credit card whenever possible when you shop online.
Credit card companies pay close attention to possible fraudulent activity and can shut down a card as soon as they notice something fishy. They almost always have a zero liability clause in the contract that states that if fraudulent charges are put onto the card, the customer, once they discover the fraud, can contest the charges and almost immediately get the credit back. The process is similar for debit cards, but since the money is actually being pulled from your account, it is more of a process to get it returned to you.
An even better option is to use a one-time credit card number or a disposable card that isn’t directly tied to your financial institution. These are available through your payment card provider and are much more difficult to hack.
2. Look for the Signs
Part of being a safe internet shopper is keeping an eye out for the signs that you’re using a reputable site. Look for things like the security insignia or padlock to show that the website is secure. The “https” prefix at the beginning of the website’s URL tells you that all information that is sent through the site is encrypted which adds another level of security to your transaction. Lastly, use your “spidey-sense” when you are contemplating a purchase online. If something feels off, or you notice that the website has sketchy online reviews, go with your gut. When things feel or look questionable online, they probably are.
3. Keep Private Things Private
The last tidbit that you should keep in mind is to keep your private things private. Avoid inputting or saving sensitive financial information on public computers or while using public Wi-Fi. Depending on the public computer’s settings, it may save all of your information and auto-fill when the next user comes along. Don’t take a chance that someone can steal your personal information just by copying and pasting.
Also, don’t store your information where others can use it. Unless you trust the computer and no one else uses it, uncheck the “save my information” box whenever you can. It may seem convenient to store your information in this way, but whatever makes life easier for you, makes life easier for hackers, too. Just take the extra two minutes and input your financial information each time you make a purchase.
Last but not least, consider the source that is requesting information. Never, never, never respond to emails asking for additional personal information such as social security numbers, birthdays, or answers to security questions. Even if these emails look like the real deal, a legitimate company would never ask you for such sensitive information over an email. If they need that info, they will request that you call and talk to them in person.
Keep these suggestions in mind when you make your next online purchase. They may seem like common sense, but sometimes the convenience factor trumps the common sense factor, and that can lead to some serious repercussions in the future.