When shopping online, plastic is the preferred method of payment. However, you must remember that your credit card number is static. It doesn't change unless you close and reopen an account, and once your credit card information is online, it can be compromised if it falls into the wrong hands.
There are some measures online shoppers can take to minimize their risk. First and foremost is ensuring that all online shopping is carried out only on secure sites. To be certain the page you're on is secure, look for a tiny padlock icon, usually found in the top right corner of your browser's URL bar. You can also tell if the site is secure by looking for an "s" in the URL address. While non secure sites and pages begin with http://, secure sites begin with https://.
Some Web browsers now have larger certificate windows that are easier to read and that allow users to examine site information more carefully. For example, if you intend to check out your online purchases using Circuit City's secure Web page but the site name on the page certificate doesn't match up, steer clear -- and alert Circuit City of the problem.
Never send your account numbers or any other personal information via e-mail, which isn't secure [source: FTC]. For this same reason, you should never access a Web site to shop through an e-mail link [source: Consumer Reports].
Now, how should you pay for all that loot? Find out on the next page.