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How can I protect myself against credit card fraud while shopping online?

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While there is no way to completely protect yourself against becoming the victim of credit card fraud while making purchases over the internet (except, perhaps, by not shopping online at all), there are several steps you can take to decrease the likelihood of a hacker getting their hands on your personal account information. These include:

  • Do what you can to ensure that you are purchasing goods from a reputable source. This means doing some research on the company or individual selling the merchandise to make sure they are legitimate.
  • Don’t base your decision whether or not a company is trustworthy simply based up the appearance of their web site.
  • Look elsewhere online to see what other people or companies have to say regarding the company you are considering purchasing from. Check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if there have been any complaints lodged against them.
  • Just because a site claims to be secure doesn’t mean that it is. Before you use the site investigate what encryption and security software it employs.
  • If the site provides a P.O. Box address, try to get an actual street address for the company in addition. Call the phone number on the site to make sure that it is still active and it connects you with the company or seller. Also send an email to the email address on the site to see if their address is active. Be leery of sellers who use free email services instead of one where a credit card is necessary in order to open an account.
  • Be very, very cautions when responding to any “special offers,” especially those that come via unsolicited email. Likewise, exercise caution when dealing with companies or sellers outside of your home country.
  • Be certain that the transaction is secure when you send your credit card number and other personal information electronically. Look for a padlock icon and an “s” following the http in front of the web address. While the padlock icon is not an absolute guarantee of a secure transaction, it should provide some assurance of a higher level of security.

The best method to use when buying items from the internet is a credit card because it enables you to dispute the charges should something go wrong or the items are not delivered as promised. Should anything fishy appear on your credit card statement after you make any purchases online, immediately contact your credit card issuer and alert them of the problem.

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