More than half of consumers are expected to do their holiday shopping over the Internet this year. The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) today issued tips to help consumers stay safe and secure when ordering online.
“A few simple precautions can make a big difference,” said R. Michael Menzies, ICBA chairman and president and CEO of Easton Bank and Trust Co., Easton, Md., “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 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, such as mother’s maiden name or date of birth. Instead, use something unique that only you know.
- 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. If you must share personal information, confirm that you are dealing with a legitimate organization.
- 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 Web site by typing in its Web-site address.
- Look for secure sites with an “s” in the URL (https://) and a closed-padlock icon on the Web page.
- Always double-check the URL to be sure you are shopping with the company you intended to shop with. A simple typo can help identity thieves.
- If you’re using a company’s site for the first time, consider checking it out with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).
- 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.
- Consumer protections in the federal Fair Credit Billing Act apply to online credit-card purchases. Keep records of all your purchases in case there’s a problem.
- Avoid providing unnecessary information such as annual income, spending habits, hobbies and lifestyle data.
- 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.
- Register your credit and debit cards at www.verifiedbyvisa.com or www.mastercardsecurecode.com for a more secure online shopping experience. Some credit-card companies offer virtual account numbers that are generated each time you make a purchase, and some e-mail providers let you create several aliases to protect your personal e-mail address.
“The Internet offers incredible convenience, and most businesses online are legitimate,” Menzies said. “We just urge our customers to use their good common sense.”