Ditching your debit card is only the first step in online shopping safety. Even if you're exclusively using credit cards for online purchases, you still need to be vigilant. Here's how to keep yourself safe while shopping in cyberspace [sources: McAfee, Norton]:
- Don't shop online unless your computer is protected with a firewall, plus antivirus and antispyware software.
- Make sure the site you're buying from is secure and encrypted. When you're checking out, the Web site address should start with https, not http. There might also be a key, lock or certificate displayed. This means that the site offers encrypted SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) transactions.
- Check the site's contact information. If no phone number is listed, that's a red flag. If you doubt the business's legitimacy, try to contact someone at the company through e-mail before buying anything, and wait until you get a response before completing the purchase.
- Watch out for hidden fees, like return shipping and restocking fees, especially on large electronics items.
- Never e-mail any personal account information or access an online shopping site through an e-mail link.
- Never store your payment information with a site that isn't secure.
- Use only one credit card for online shopping. That way, there's only one account that could be compromised in the event of loss or theft.
- Don't buy anything from spammers or fall for a phishing scam. If a deal looks too good to be true (and the e-mail contains too many spelling and grammar errors to count), it probably is. And never e-mail or text personal information, passwords or PINs.
- Trust your instincts. If the site seems shady, don't buy anything from it.
- Save all records and receipts for all online transactions.
- Monitor your accounts online instead of waiting for mailed statements. The earlier you spot a suspicious transaction -- ideally, while it's still pending -- the better.
There's more handy information about online shopping on the next page.