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5 Critical Credit Saving Tips For Online Shopping
1. Use Familiar Websites
Start at a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray, especially when you drift past the first few pages of links. If you know the site, chances are it’s less likely to be a rip off. We all know Target.com, and that it carries everything under the sun. Likewise, just about every major retail outlet has an online store, from Walmart to Home Depot. Beware of misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain (i.e. .net instead of .com)—those are the oldest tricks in the book. Yes, the sales on these sites might look tempting, but that’s how they trick you into giving up your info.
If you find a store with a great deal that you just can’t pass up, do yourself a huge favor. Take a few minutes to do a little research. Do they have an active Facebook Business Page? Facebook has become a trusted source for gathering information about companies. Do they provide at least two ways to contact them (i.e. a phone# and email)? If these check out, then it’s more than likely a valid online store.
2. Don’t Give Everything Away
An online shopping store does not need your social security number or your birthday to do business. However, this valuable information, combined with your credit card number for purchases, is “money in the bank” for the bad guys. Crooks can do a lot of damage. The more they know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, or at least until you have a more personal relationship with the retailer, give just enough information to make the purchase.
3. Be Proactive
Ok. So you just made your first purchase with an online retailer. As soon as you get the chance, check your bank account. Many of us use mobile banking, so even if you’re on the move, you can take a minute to check your most recent transactions. On the weekend or when the banks are closed, this transaction should show “pending” with the correct purchase amount. If not, contact the retailer to get it resolved immediately. Don’t wait for your statement to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly for a few weeks (which hopefully you do anyway) and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Make sure you don’t see any fraudulent charges, even originating from sites like PayPal. If you do see something wrong, pick up the phone to address the matter quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only once you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems, however; after that, you might be liable for the charges anyway. It’s your money and your credit. Protect it at all costs!
4. Use Creative Passwords
We like to beat this dead horse about making sure to utilize uncrackable passwords, but it’s never more important than when banking and shopping online. These days, many sites require you to use letters and numbers when creating a password. That’s great! But, another good suggestion is that you place the numbers before the letters. Also, if you’re using a name, shorten it up. For example, you want to use your mother’s maiden name and your spouse’s birthday. Try 112168Hend, which would be good for the last name Henderson. Even when using a security program, there’s really no sure-fire way of preventing the crooks from getting your information, but you want to deter them by any means. Believe it or not, strong passwords can do just that.
5. Connection Protection
Hopefully we don’t have to tell you it’s a bad idea to use a public computer to make purchases, but we still will. If you do, just remember to log out every time you use a public terminal, even if you were just checking email. The final step to ensuring your information won’t be retrieved, is to delete the website you were visiting, from the computer’s history.
What about using your own laptop to shop while you’re out? It’s one thing to hand over a credit card to get swiped at the checkout, but when you must enter the number and expiration date on a website while sitting in a public cafe, you’re giving an over-the-shoulder snooper plenty of time to see the goods. At the very least, think like the bad guys: Sit in the back, facing the door, so nobody can see what you’re doing.