Allison here, with AllClear ID. Online shopping is almost ubiquitous, and has even moved to taking place on tablets and smartphones as consumers shop while on-the-go. Even though online shopping is something that a lot of people do without much afterthought, that doesn’t mean that the practice is without risk or security issues. We can still shop online and remain safe by following these five online shopping tips:

  1. Don’t Save Your Credit Card Information – Many e-commerce or retail sites allow you the option to save your credit card information. It may be more convenient to have it saved, but could prove hazardous if someone hacks into your account. Even if the website does keep your information secure and encrypted, it won’t notice anything different if a hacker makes a few purchases on your account. Skip the convenience of auto-save and type your information in with each purchase.
  2. ONLY Use a Credit Card – Because credit cards are protected under the Fair Credit Billing Act, consumers can dispute charges and be removed from responsibility from wrongful charges. Those don’t apply to debit cards, and aren’t protected if there are problems with the purchase. NEVER use a money transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union, as it makes it easy for scammers to get their money and hard for you to trace them if a problem occurs.
  3. Research Unknown Companies Before Purchasing – There may be little risk purchasing from giants like Target or Amazon, but if you’re purchasing from a smaller retailer or e-commerce site, do your research first. Check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints, or call the company directly to ask questions about their return, cancellation, or complaint policies. It is often in those policies that you can figure out which companies are legitimate and which are scams.
  4. Don’t Give Your Social Security Number – No legitimate online retailer or e-commerce site would need your Social Security number in order to complete a purchase or to conduct one over the Internet. Any “company” asking for this information is only looking to commit identity theft in the future.
  5. If It Looks Too Good to be True, It Probably Is – Be wary of any offer that makes extraordinary claims, or sells something at a price point far below market value. Those could be indications of scams, so it’s important to take a closer look at these types of offers. You should be especially cautious if these offers come via email, where you could be prone to phishing links and injections of malware onto your computer. If something comes via email, double check the link by typing it directly into the address bar, instead of just clicking it through the email.

As long as you stick to familiar shopping sites, stay on private computers, and check your credit cards for strange purchases, you should be safe when you shop online for whatever it is that you need. Online shopping isn’t without its risks, but if you keep those risks to a minimum by following these tips and other best practices, you should be problem-free.