Online shopping used to inspire suspicion among consumers-now it's a no-brainer. But was that watchful mindset of just a few years ago the wiser attitude to take? In some ways, yes - and being vigilant about how and where you're giving out your financial details is equally smart today.
Since buying online is the new norm for many people, identity thieves are well prepared to target shoppers. A bit of forethought and preparedness is all it takes to foil thieves' efforts. Keep these tips in mind when shopping online:
• Watch the Web address: One quick way to check a site's security is to take a look at the URL-does it read "http" or "https"? If it reads "https," that means the page is secured-that should always be the case for pages on which credit card information is entered. If the site is not secure, consider taking your business elsewhere.
• Don't be tempted to store information: Many e-commerce sites ask consumers to store credit card information on the site, with the enticement that it will make future purchases go faster. That might be the case, but storing financial details like credit card numbers on a retailer's website is a dangerous move, leaving sensitive information more vulnerable to identity thieves.
• Pay from one place: Entering financial information at countless sites across the Web multiplies the risk of identity theft. Paying bills from one central, secure location-such as a bank's website-lessens the exposure of key data that identity thieves are after.
• Create complex passwords: It might seem like a bother to remember a plethora of complex passwords, but the effort can pay off in terms of safety. Hard-to-guess passwords help protect accounts that contain financial and other identifying information at online shopping sites, banks and other websites. Change passwords regularly as yet another precautionary step.
Shopping online is no longer an activity we view with suspicion. However, taking precautions against identity theft makes safe shopping easier.