Shop Trusted Vendors
For a relatively small investment of less than $5 per month, anyone can set up an online store — even a scam artist. When shopping online, check for clues that a business is legitimate before entrusting it with your credit card information. One sign of a potential scam is a domain name or business name that is strikingly similar to that of another vendor, but that is misspelled. For example, Amazon.com is a well-known and trusted e-commerce site but a site called Ammazon.com might take advantage of consumers’ trust by using a similar name. The Better Business Bureau can also help you spot scams as it gives businesses letter grades from A to F based on their customer relations track records. If a company has a low letter grade, it may be unwise to trust it with your banking information.
Check the Connection
Well-meaning vendors may inadvertently make you a target for identity thieves if they don’t use the proper encryption when accepting your credit card information. Look at the Web address bar before entering your banking information on a website. If the address doesn’t begin with “https://” (notice the “S”), don’t send your information as the connection is not encrypted. An identity thief can intercept your information once you submit it on the vendor’s website.
Report Suspicious Emails
As a rule, reputable businesses never ask you to send banking information via email. So if you receive an email from a business — even one with which you have an account — requesting such information, do not respond and do not click any of the links in the email as it may be a scam to steal your identity. Instead, visit the website of the business the email is supposedly from and use the information on the contact page to forward the email to the business, explaining that you think it’s a scam. Businesses aren’t always aware of such scams and your email can help them report the scam to consumers.
Avoid Impulse Buys
Identity theft isn’t the only online risk involving your credit card. Savvy businesses often design their websites to encourage you to buy more than you intend to, similar to the way grocery stores stock cookies near milk to encourage you to buy them though they aren’t on your shopping list. To prevent impulse buying in online stores, add items to your shopping cart but wait 15 minutes before proceeding to checkout. During that time, occupy your mind with other things unrelated to the purchase. At the end of the 15 minutes, re-evaluate the items in your cart and remove those that seem unnecessary.