Banks obviously have to closely safeguard their money; keeping those dollars secure is the only reason they exist. Retailers, though, make a profit by selling products. Whether it's the fault of shoddy security or tenacious hackers, some Web sites have a history of being hacked, resulting in fraudulent transactions for customers. Even major outlets are susceptible: In 2007, TJX, which owns discount retail giants T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, among others, was hacked to the tune of 45.7 million credit card numbers [source: Jewell]. Avoid making purchases on sites that look sketchy, and never fall for e-mail phishing schemes that try to get hold of your personal information.
There's one last precaution you should take when shopping online: Avoid using a debit card whenever possible. It's bad enough when identity thieves obtain your credit card information and make fraudulent purchases. But if they gain access to your debit card number, they could tap directly into your bank account and potentially clear it out. Whether you're using a debit card or credit card on the Internet, take advantage of your bank's online services and account management to monitor your balance. Carefully watching for fraudulent charges will help keep your finances safe, whether you're shopping or managing your money with online banking.