Safe Internet shopping tips

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

It is estimated that more than half of consumers are expected to do their holiday shopping over the Internet this year. With that in mind, the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) and Better Banks have issued tips to help consumers stay safe and secure when ordering online.

“A few simple precautions can make a big difference,” said Jim MacPhee, ICBA chairman. “Community banks are committed to making sure that our customers have the information they need to shop safely and securely anywhere, anytime. It’s even more important at this time of year to remind people of the steps they can take to protect their personal information when shopping online and to lessen the likelihood of fraud.”

Make sure your computer and browser are secure. Set your firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software to automatically update and scan your PC.

Don’t create passwords that include easily accessed personal information. Instead, use something unique that only you know and include uppercase and non-alphanumeric characters.

Don't give personal information over the phone, through the mail or on the Internet unless you know who you’re dealing with and preferably only if you’ve initiated the contact. Never give out Social Security or driver’s license numbers or date of birth.

If you receive an e-mail asking for personal information, do not hit the reply button or click on any link in the e-mail. Instead, go directly to the sender’s website by typing in its web address.

Look for secure sites with an “s” in the URL (https://) and a closed-padlock icon on the webpage.

Know who you are dealing with. If you’re using a company’s site for the first time, consider checking it out with the Better Business Bureau          (www.bbb.org) or use a search engine with the name of the company and “fraud” to determine if other consumers have posted negative reviews.

Never respond to an offer by way of a spam or bulk e-mail. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Shop with U.S.-based companies. Domestic state and federal consumer-protection laws apply. You’ll be protected and have recourse should something go awry.

Above all, monitor your online card or bank account statements for unauthorized activity and report this immediately to the bank.  Credit cards and Visa and MasterCard branded debit cards offer consumer protections in the event of fraud. Keep records of all your purchases in case there’s a problem.

“The Internet offers incredible convenience, and while most businesses online are legitimate, we urge our customers to monitor their reports and report any suspicious activity,” Bob Mowrer, Jr. Better Banks president said.