How to Shop Safely Online

Customers themselves must take precautions when purchasing online. Solely relying on the company one is buying from to protect information is no longer an option. Anyone who submits credit card information online is transmitting sensitive financial information over the Internet; cardholders should take some responsibility in being safe. But how can one be safe in an environment in which a data breach seems to appear nearly every week in the news? The key is to realize that no system is perfect; one must exercise caution and take responsibility in online safety.technically_living

Online Security Tips

Keep your computer or mobile device up to date and free of malware. Out-of-date and compromised software is perfect prey for malicious activity. Exercise caution when transmitting data online, especially on a public network or private network that is not properly secured. Do not store credit card information in online accounts. The hassle of typing them in each time is less painful than having to deal with a compromised account. Never purchase from any site that does not show a lock in the web address bar of your web browser. The lock indicates that they have an SSL which encrypts the data. If a website is accepting confidential information without an SSL in place, it is not a site you want to use.

Review Online Accounts: BillGuard

We all know that we should be reviewing our bank and credit card statements, but let’s face it, many of us are increasingly busy. Those who do not have time to review statements in print or online can use an app. I like BillGuard. It’s marketed as a personal finance app that can monitor accounts and scan for unwanted activity such as billing errors, hidden fees and plausible fraud. If a possible scam or questionable transaction is found, it sends an alert. Other accounts send text messages after a purchase. I only use it for international, out of state, online and gas station purchases. In my setup, any time a purchase occurs on my accounts in one of those scenarios, I am alerted within seconds. This way, if a purchase was made that I did not authorize, I am aware of it and can take immediate action to shut the card down.

Other Options: Controlled Payment Numbers

Even if one follows the guidelines above, a security flaw or data breach could still allow information to be compromised. Given this, the ideal scenario is to not submit confidential information. Though we likely can’t get around submitting some information, we increasingly have the option to not submit our own credit card numbers. Controlled payment numbers, which are growing in popularity, allow the purchaser to get a temporary or virtual number to use to purchase online. This temporary credit card number, which may have a time limit, dollar cap or some other limiting trait is provided by a credit card company and can be used in place of a real credit card number. Though this too may be seem like a bit an annoyance, it is less annoying than having a compromised account.

There is no foolproof method to protect information in any computer system use every opportunity to protect yourself online. In a world of increasing data breaches, we can’t rely on others to protect our information; we too are part of the security equation.
-Matt Artz