The San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center offered tips today for secure online shopping.
- Shoppers should make sure the Web site is secure by checking for "//https:'' at the start of the address, and a locked padlock icon on the Web
- Use the Web to research the company by making sure there is a legitimate street address and telephone number where a person can be reached. These will become vital if there is a problem with the order.
- Search for complaints about the company. Often a Google search for "xxx company complaints problems'' will yield actionable results.
- Shop stores in the United States. If you order from stores outside the U.S., know the regulations of the country involved.
- Read the fine print. Know what the return policy is before the order is processed.
- Read the shipping rules to find out who pays for shipping. They may have different policies for shipping to you versus a returned item.
- Keep a photocopy of your order, the mailing address and phone number of the company, and the confirmation of your order.
- Use a credit card that you designate for online shopping only. This means you have a single statement that is easier to check for fraudulent purchases.
- Do not use debit cards for on-line shopping, as debit cards do not have the same protections as credit cards, and can be used to remove funds immediately from your account.
- Never send a check to pay for a purchase. Checks can be copied and used in many ways for fraudulent activity.
- Make sure that your computer is safe for Internet shopping. Keep your computer protection programs, such as firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software updated.