How to Stay Safe When Shopping Online

Q: I know buying online is becoming more and more commonplace, so what should I be doing to make sure I and my data stay safe and secure?

Today, just about anyone can sell on the internet, and professional-looking store templates are cheap and easy to set up. As a result, you need to take some important steps to verify the trustworthiness of online merchants before you take out your credit card. Here are 5 quick tips you should follow when shopping on the web.

1. Ensure that your personal information is being protected. Check the url of the website to make sure it reads https to indicate a secure server, which means it will encrypt your data (ex. credit card number) as it is processed.

2. If you’re considering buying from an unfamiliar company, do a search to see what other shoppers have to say. You can check large review sites such as and Bizrate, or search its name on Google (but be sure the sites in the results aren’t owned by the company itself or its affiliates).

3. Although you should be very careful when entering your information, credit card transactions are the preferred method of online purchasing, as they give you the most protection thanks to the Fair Credit Billing Act.

4. Study the fine print before buying. An online offer that seems great might just be an introductory trial price with a much higher monthly fee after a set period. Do a little extra homework before purchasing and you will avoid unpleasant surprises later.

5. Read the privacy policy of the website to see what personal information they are collecting and what they can do with it. Even very secure websites such as harvest a lot of your personal data for marketing and personalization services.


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  1. There’s an easier way to do this. I buy tons of stuff online from shoes to food. My credit card number was being stolen at least once a year. Once it was 3 times in about 2 years. That’s when my bank stepped in. They said we think it’s happening online. They set up another account for me, giving me 2 checking accounts. The first is my primary account where I use my CC at land-based businesses. I never use that card online. The second account stays empty. The CC for the second account is used online and nowhere else. I don’t even carry it. When I make a purchase online and the order is ready to be placed, I open a new browser, go to my bank account online and transfer the amount of the order, log out, and close the browser. Then I go back to my order and hit Place Order, or Submit, and my order is paid for. The company gets their money and the thieves get nothing. This has worked for a few years now and I have no complaints. Idon’t have a fee for the first account but do have a $10 fee for the second. It’s worth it.

    • Thanks for sharing Lorey. I’m glad that works for you. I’d expect some might think setting up a second account would be more effort (and I’m not sure if all banks would offer this) but I’m glad it has proven to be convenient for you. I agree that it isn’t extra work to make a purchase once it’s set up, and I think that would definitely be worth the $10 since it seems to have completely solved your earlier problems.

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