How to Protect Yourself When Shopping Online

By • Feb 11th, 2012 • Category: Family

Americans spend billions of dollars every year by shopping online. Shopping online requires that you type in your credit card information or use a service like PayPal which connects to your bank account. That’s some pretty serious stuff, and it’s incredibly important to make sure you safeguard yourself, your credit, and your cash. While most of the time people make online purchases without any problems, sometimes others become victims of fraud or theft. Using the Internet to shop is incredibly convenient and connects you with lots of unique things you can’t find locally, so there’s no reason to avoid it. However, there are some ways you can protect yourself when shopping online. It’s important to take safety precautions, so here are some things to keep in mind.

Secure Sockets Layer
When you purchase from any website online, make sure the website is using a Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL. This will encrypt and protect your personal data. You can tell a website is protected by SSL a few different ways. A lock may appear in the URL bar of your Internet browser, the website may start with “https:” instead of “http:,” and you may be notified by a pop-up. If you’re notified by a pop-up that the website does not use SSL, or there is a broken lock in your browser bar, do not purchase from that site.

Reputable Websites
When making purchases, try to stick to reputable, well-known websites, such as Amazon. Also, stick to official websites of stores you trust, like Target. Just because a website is not well-known does not mean it’s unsafe, but major retailers are often more likely bets. If you feel uncomfortable with a website, don’t buy from it. With smaller companies, look for those that use services like PayPal or Google Checkout.

Personal Information
You’ll have to enter some very personal information when making shopping online, like your credit card number, full name, and address. You should never be required to provide unnecessary information such as a birthday, social security number, or bank account number. Be discerning when offering personal information. If you want to take extra precaution, have packages delivered to a P.O. Box instead of your home address, and use a special credit card and email address for web purchases only.

Terms & Conditions
Reputable websites will also make available to you their privacy policy or terms and conditions. It’s a good idea to thoroughly read through these documents, even if they can be tedious at times. It’s important to educate yourself on things like how your personal information is being used. Read the fine print to ensure you’re not unwittingly signing up for automatically recurring payments, for instance. If you’re uncomfortable with any aspects of the privacy policy, make your purchase elsewhere.

It’s very important to review your bank account or credit card statements carefully when you shop online. Check your records against all your purchases, and make sure you haven’t been over-charged or double-charged for anything. If you notice a discrepancy, or find a fraudulent charge, notify your bank or credit institution immediately.


Terry Ford is a prolific writer who shares her tips for managing your money online and other interesting topics with help from the world’s best grammar checker.

 How to Protect Yourself When Shopping Online
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