You can never totally protect yourself from online shopping fraud but you can go a long way towards that goal by following these rules:
Use a different password for each site where you shop and change it regularly. Use password management software, which you can get for free to keep track of them.
Make sure any page where you’re giving information, like your credit card number, is secure. The details in your browser address box should begin with “https”- it’s the “s” that’s important. If it’s missing don’t buy. There should also be a tiny padlock icon on the address bar.
Don’t use links in emails to go to a shopping website. It could be a bogus site made to look like the real thing. Find and key-in the address yourself or use your browsers bookmark feature.
If you’re planning to buy from a company you’ve never heard of or dealt with before, do an online search for the company name along with words like “scam” or “rip-off”, which will tell you if anyone else has had a bad experience. Check out their reputation with shopping comparison sites.
Don’t send payment by money-wiring services to someone you don’t know. Your payment is ultimately untraceable. Pay by credit card or via one of the online payment services like PayPal or Google Checkout. Credit card companies pick up the tab if you’re defrauded.
Make sure you have full Internet security software installed – free versions are available and keep it up to date. Try to use one that has a filter that screens and warns of suspicious websites.
As you would if you were shopping in a physical store, compare prices and features. Read the small print. Are their charges for shipping and handling? What about warranties and returns? Print out and keep terms and conditions.
If an item price is too good to be true, it probably is. The item may not exist, it may be faulty or it may be a cheap imitation forgery. Don’t buy. You might miss a bargain but you’re more likely to miss a scam.
Don’t give your social security number to a seller or anyone else online.
Don’t buy when you’re using public wi-fi service, like the one at your local coffee shop. Online snoopers know how to access public networks to steal information about your transaction.
Two final tips. A great site to learn more about online fraud is the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov. Second, if you do fall victim, contact the police, your bank, and credit card company immediately. You also should contact your insurance agent. Many homeowner and renters policy provide identity theft recovery coverage. Contact us for more information or a free policy review to see if you are protected properly.