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(Protecting Yourself Online while shopping)
The Internet, like most shopping mediums, can offer us much value and convenience. And like most shopping mediums, it also comes with it’s pitfalls and a voracious appetite for OPM and OPI, other people’s money and other people’s identities. With a few tools and a little judgment we can significantly reduce our chances of getting taken for a one-way-ride on the Internet.
Following all of the suggestions in this article will not guarantee that you will not loose your money. And just because an Internet business does not meet one of the suggested criteria, does not mean they are not legitimate. However, it does mean they are set up in such a way as to bring added risk to the shopper. And reducing your online shopping risk is the main goal of this article.
The first and most important rule of online shopping is “Never!, Ever!” try to make a Purchase from a Spam email. Do not click on any link, or better yet, do not even open it. Spammer parasites are experts at grabbing your attention and arousing your curiosity, greed or desperation. Some may actually have legitimate products, but many are foreign websites designed to steal your credit card information and there is basically nothing you can do about it.
Two significant spammers that come to mind are the prescription pills, especially the ones that are supposed to help you loose weight, or enhance sexuality; and the stock tip that encourages you to buy a stock that the spammer is pumping and dumping, leaving you holding a worthless stock. I have personally traced many of these spammers to websites in Russia and China. Both of these countries have set up literally thousands of websites just to get your Credit Card information. And lets not forget the Fishing emails that pretend to be from legitimate websites. Be particularly careful of banking email indicating a problem. If you need to go to your bank website, or any website, type it in or use a bookmark, or desktop shortcut.
The second rule of online shopping is do not make a purchases from a website that does not have easy to find and verify contact information. Would you really want to buy from someone who hides their identity? If a website does not have easy to find contact information like a Telephone number, physical address (not a P.O. Box) and a domain email, think twice before shopping. Many online stores belong to owners in other countries who use a PO Box and a Voice over IP (internet) phone, or magic jack, which can make them look like they are in the US. They are not legal businesses.
Rule three: Before entering any personal data, especially credit card information, check the browser address bar. At the very least, it should have an HTTPS, instead of just an HTTP and there should be a small image of a lock. This indicates that the browser is encrypting your data before sending it to a secured server. Better yet, make sure the browser address bar turns to the color “Green”. This indicates that the business itself was checked for legitimacy, in addition to the data being encrypted.
Naturally keeping your computer operating system updated and having a good Firewall and Anti-Virus is a given, when it comes to shopping safely online. For those who are on a tight budget, Comodo offers both a Free Firewall and a Free Anti-Virus, which includes DDP (Default Deny Protection). With DDP, the Comodo Firewall references a list of over two million known PC-friendly applications and warns you if an application that is not on the safe-list knocks on your PC's door. The Firewall immediately alerts you to the possibility of attacking Malware. Here is the link to Comodo’s Free Firewall and Anti-Virus, as well as other valuable software, that Comodo offers for Free home use.
Be cautious of websites that display Trust logos. Do not be fooled by a logo of a trusted organization that is NOT valid. Double Click on the logo. If a window does not open, or the window that opens is for the same website, instead of the Authority website, you are being tricked. Make sure the Authority is a legitimate Authority and not just made up by an unscrupulous website owner who purchased a similar sounding Domain name for the sole purpose of tricking their customers. Any legitimate organization will return thousands of search results. Don't forget to use quotes around phrases. For example, "Better Business Bureau", instead of just Better Business Bureau, which will bring up sites with any one of the 3 words (Better, Business & Bureau).
Download the Free Google Toolbar and install it. This toolbar has an option that shows the Google Page Rank of all websites. Any website that does NOT have a Google Page Rank of at least 1 on their Home page is a very new website or it has been tossed out of Google for some reason or another. Stay with websites who have at least a 1 PR on their Home page and you will greatly reduce your online risk. Almost all Fraudulent websites have a zero Google PR. Here is the link to Google’s Free Toolbar.
Be discriminate with your credit cards. Use only one, online, and the others off-line. Do not use the card you selected for online, off-line and vice versa. The reason is that when ordering online, you generally need to provide the security code on the back, which is a CNP (Card Not Present) code. This code is meant to show that you do have the card in your presence, when you cannot actually present it. This code should never be looked at by anyone when you present the card in person. In fact, it is not supposed to be written down or stored. Should one of your cards be compromised, the chances are very high that it will be one of the cards that you do not use online. Marissa and I have had 2 credit cards compromised and neither one had been used online.
Last, I would recommend signing up with PayPal, if you do not already have an account. Use a credit card. Not a Debit card. With a PayPal account, you do not have to continually pass your credit card information every time you order online. By using a credit card, you are protected, should someone compromise your credit card. If your Debit card is compromised, they basically will have access to your bank account; and although the Federal Reserve's Reg E does set your liability for fraudulent debit card purchases at $50, it can be a real hassle, especially since it can caused outstanding checks to bounce.
Pay at the register, instead of giving your card to your waiter to pay your bill. Never let anyone use your card. Always use good judgment when handling your money, regardless of where you shop.
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Frank J. Oddo is the president and CEO of RoadTrucker® Inc, an International corporation with locations in both the USA and the Philippines. RoadTrucker provides Travel and Specialty items for Truckers, RVers and Travel.
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