It’s hard to believe, but as recently as a decade ago, many said they would never consider online banking nor would they key a credit card number into their browser. It was simply too risky. For those who took that leap of faith and opted to give online shopping or online bill payments a try, they were hesitant, though hopeful, their financial information and credit card numbers would not be compromised.
Online retailers were then able to offer big incentives for those who surfed their sites, including free shipping, discounts and greater access to their collective product listings, regardless of where a particular item was located. Most went to great measures to ensure their customers credit card information was safe, but like most things, it was a slow dance until technological advances made every transaction safe and worry-free. Indeed, much has changed to give consumers peace of mind each time they key their credit card or debit card numbers.
So how has security on the internet evolved in those years? You might be surprised to learn there are security measures in place that keep your information as safe – if not safer – than your neighborhood bank. That said, there are a few things you, as the consumer, can incorporate to ensure your online shopping experience never means having to change credit card numbers or endless phone calls to banks and other financial institutions. Here are a few tips we recommend. Many of these are courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Treasury Department.
Passwords and What They Should -and Shouldn’t -Include
Since most online consumers require a user name and password, be sure to choose carefully. Assume nothing, including the assumptions that no one will guess your birthday and that it’s OK to use it a password. One word: Facebook. If you’re part of the Facebook, or any other social networking community, there’s a good chance your birthday is already readily available. Opt for another password that’s not symbolic. In fact, it’s always a good idea to choose both letters and numbers.
Browser and Security Updates
You’re likely familiar with those annoying pop ups from your browser host that says “Updates are available. Install now?” Many of us make a quick mental note to do that as soon as we’re finished reading the latest breaking news, and then human nature kicks in and we don’t give it a second thought until it pops up again at another inconvenient time. It’s crucial, however, that you install those updates. They exist to further protect you online. Whether it’s new viruses or improvements made to the browser, they’re important and you can be sure any new safety features will be included. This, again, makes you a formidable opponent for anyone looking to take advantage of any vulnerabilities.
On that note, it’s also important to keep your virus protection current. Install those updates as soon as they’re available. In fact, you can easily add a reminder to your email calendar that will send an email as often as you’d like and at any particular time of the day. In that reminder, be sure to have it repeat every week or two weeks, and in the note section, include the links that you can quickly click that will take you where you need to be to check for updates.
Skip the Email Links
Instead of clicking a link from your favorite retailer’s email of big savings, go to the browser and type in the retailer’s landing page. If it’s legitimate, you’ll see a big announcement that you can then safely click. Too often, creative hackers will recreate a familiar email, complete with logos and color, to trick shoppers. Clicking on their link puts you in their territory – which is never a good thing.
Phone Calls Count
Finally, if you’re in doubt, give the retailer a call. There’s not an online presence out there without a toll free phone number. Many even offer online chat options that allow you to speak immediately with a customer service representative. Ask the representative about their security measures and voice your concerns over entering your credit card number. Most will suggest you call them and do it over the phone if you’re uncomfortable.
Bottom line is online security has really advanced. It’s never been safer to take advantage of those great sales while doing so with few worries over our credit card information. The technology is in place and advances are made virtually every day that only further cement the online shopping experience. While the possibility for identity theft or theft of your information will always exist, it’s certainly become much more difficult for anyone with less than noble intentions.
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