Internet Transactions

Identity Theft Insurance?

Some insurance companies offer identity theft insurance. While these policies don't cover everything, they certainly help out by covering a portion of lost wages for time spent dealing with the theft, mailing and other costs associated with filing paperwork to correct the problem, loan re-application fees, phone charges and even some attorney fees.

These steps can help lessen your chances of becoming a victim of identity fraud, but nothing is a sure thing. The thing to remember is that documents you throw away often have all the information a thief needs to steal your identity and wreak havoc on your life.

The ease of shopping and comparing products and prices online has made it an attractive option for many shoppers. How can you make sure your transactions are safe and your credit card information going only where you intend it to? There are several ways to help ensure safe transactions on the Internet, and more are becoming possible all the time. Some of these include:

  • Stored-value cards (cards that you can buy with specified, loaded dollar amounts)
  • Smart cards (cards that can act as credit cards, debit cards and/or stored-value cards)
  • Point-of-sale (POS) devices (like your PDA or mobile phone)
  • Digital cash
  • E-wallets
  • Online payment services like PayPal

The most prevalent method for paying for the things you purchase online is still the credit card. The following list provides some tips on how to make sure your transaction is secure. For a more extensive explanation of encryption and Internet security, check out How Encryption Works.

  • Use the latest Internet browser. The program that you use to surf the Internet is called a browser. This software has built-in encryption capabilities that scramble the information you send to a server. Using the most recent browser ensures that the data is protected using the latest encryption technology. This technology also uses a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which is an Internet security protocol used by Internet browsers and Web servers to transmit sensitive information. The server receiving the data uses special "keys" to decode it. You can make sure you are on an SSL by checking the URL -- the http at the beginning of the address should have changed to https. Also, you should notice a small lock icon in the status bar at the bottom of your browser window.

  • Look for digital certificates that authenticate the entity you are dealing with. Independent services like VeriSign will authenticate the identity of the Web site you are visiting. Web sites that use this service (usually those that sell items or services online) will have the VeriSign logo. By clicking on the logo, you can be assured that the site is legitimate, rather than a clone of the legitimate company set up to collect your personal and financial information.

    Independent services like VeriSign will authenticate the identity of the Web site you are visiting.
    Services like Trust-E review a company's privacy policy (for a fee) and then allow the company to post the Trust-E logo if its privacy policy follows certain industry standards for consumer protection.

  • Read the privacy policy. The information you enter on the Web site should be kept confidential. Make sure you read the company's privacy policy to ensure that your personal information won't be sold to others. Services like Trust-E review a company's privacy policy (for a fee) and then allow the company to post the Trust-E logo if its privacy policy follows certain industry standards for consumer protection.

  • Only use one credit card for all of your online purchases.

  • Never give out passwords or user ID information online unless you know who you are dealing with and why they need it. Don't give it out to your Internet service provider if you get an e-mail requesting it. This is a relatively recent scam used to access your account and get your credit card number, along with whatever other personal information is there.

  • Keep records of all of your Internet transactions. Watch your credit card statement for the charges and make sure they're accurate.

  • After you've made purchases online, check your e-mail. Merchants often send confirmation e-mails or other communications about your order.