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The holidays are quickly approaching and if you’re like me you’ll be ordering quite a few gifts online this year. I’m a big online shopper and find myself ordering at least a few items a month. Buying online can make shopping more convenient. But, if you’re going to be using a credit card, there are steps you should always take to make sure you protect your personal information.
Before I started CreditShout, I was actually the vice president of an e-commerce development company. I had to deal with making sure our clients e-commerce sites were secure on a daily basis. Although I stepped down from my position a few years ago to pursue other things it gave me great insight into the world of e-commerce.
There are a few steps you can take to make sure that your identity remains protected and to avoid any unnecessary headaches when using your credit card to make purchases online.
1. Only Buy Through Trusted Retailers
The first thing, and probably the most important is to make sure you buy from online retailers that you know and trust. There are a ton of fairly shady smaller e-commerce sites out there that you’ve probably never heard of until your searched Google for that perfect gift.
When I come across an online retailer I’m not familiar I usually do one of two things.
I’ll either try to locate that same product on a site that I’m familiar with such as Amazon, or I’ll do some research and see if the company that I’m going to be buying from has a good track record.
Obviously, if you’re in a rush the first option is probably the best. However, if you have some time on your hands you may be able to get a better deal — if you do your research.
The internet is home to millions of complaints in the form of blog posts and reviews, so if an online retailer is going to rip you off ,it’s more than likely that you aren’t the first.
Good sites for consumer reviews:
If everything checks out and it turns out to be a store you believe you can trust, the precede to step two.
Some card companies such as Discover have partnered with online retailers and offer an online mall of sorts, where you can shop and earn additional rewards when you use your credit card.
By taking advantage of these online mall programs you have access to trusted sites where you know that your credit card information will be protected and at the same time can earn extra cash back and rewards.
From the ShopDiscover Online Mall:
2. Always Make Sure the Order Page is Secure
After you’ve found a trusted online retailer to buy from, you’ve found what you’re looking for and you go to check out, you want to make sure that the page where you provide your billing and shipping information as well as your payment info is secured with SSL. This is as simple as looking for an “s” after the “http” in your address bar (https://amazon.com would be an example of a secured page).
If you’re using Firefox, the name of the site in the address bar will also be highlighted in green if the page is secure, like this:
When looking for the “S” your really checking to see if the page uses SSL. SSL which stands for Secure Sockets Layer, encrypts the data traveling between your computer and the online retailers server. This protects your credit card and billing information, making it virtually impossible to be stolen.
3. Never Choose to Save Your Card Number
When credit card numbers are stolen online, thieves will often go after an entire database that contains hundreds of thousands or even millions of credit card numbers. Many times, these databases are created from the information that retailers collect from customers who choose to save their billing information.
I never choose to save any of my credit card information online for this reason alone. I would rather have to enter my card information every time then have my card information stored in an unknown location and run the risk of it being exposed accidentally.
If you’re still uncomfortable with using your credit card online, you can always open up a Paypal account.
Paypal acts like a middle man and allows you to pay for online items without reveling your credit card or bank information to retailers. Paying with Paypal can actually be easier than with a credit card because you don’t have to enter a long credit card number, you just have to login to your Paypal account.
On a side note if you’re looking to buy online and are extremely impatient like me you want to check out the new Amazon Local Express Delivery which is more expensive than the standard shipping but offers same day delivery in many major U.S. cities.