Internet Safety | Are You Safe & Secure While Shopping Online

by Beth Montgomery on May 9, 2012

Photo courtesy of elhombredenegro.

Last week, my husband was checking out at the grocery store when our credit card was denied. Since we always pay the full balance each month and have never reached our threshold for spending, he argued at first, then called our credit card company.

Since I’m overly safe when shopping online and using our card, I was shocked to find out that our credit card had been stolen and someone in Moscow who was now using it to make $500 purchases at convenience stores. To be honest, we still aren’t one-hundred percent sure how they got our information, but a little research made me realize that my husband was a little more trusting online and not making the best choices.

We weren’t as safe as I thought.

I try very hard on In Good Cents to only promote sites that I would shop, even turning down partnership opportunities with companies I worried were not as secure as I’d like, but even I’ve made a few mistakes.

Part of being a savvy shopper is knowing how to protect yourself online and recognizing red flags. Before I on unfamiliar sites, there are a few things I check out.

Are you on the right website?

That sounds easy, but smart scammers are buying up domains very similar to the official website. They buy up URL’s with slight differences (it’s , not

  • Is the website a .com? Not all legitimate websites are, but it is still the most popular domain. Scammers may try to trick you by having .com in the domain name, like the fake Ugg’s Australia site above.
  • Is it misspelled, extra words (it not, or even just one extra letter (or one missing letter)?

Sometimes, the differences are more obvious (ummm… when did Coach become Chinese?).

When in doubt, searching for the website domain is helpful. will tell you who owns the site and how to contact them. Many fraudulent shopping sites have their information blocked or are located overseas.

What does your antivirus protection have to say?

Whenever I’m in doubt, I head to a search engine to start from scratch and search for the store’s website to make sure I end up on the same website.

Top antivirus programs often come with internet protection that helps you when browsing the web by warning you when you’re about to visit a questionable site and helping you navigate through all the search results with helpful icons.

Can you contact the company easily?

Shopping sites offer customer service to handle returns, online shopping issues, transactions by phone, and answer questions. A good sign a site isn’t completely on the up and up is no contact information or even simply the lack of a phone number.

Are they protecting themselves (and you)?

Let’s be honest. Companies want to protect themselves. The terms of use or service on websites aren’t just to protect them though. It’s also to protect you. Here’s where you can find their legal response to what happens if something goes wrong. Will they accept a return? Will they swap out damaged products? If there’s no policies, especially a return policy, that’s a good reason to be concerned.

Are the security banners clickable?

Many well-known sites and brands don’t flaunt their security banners, but you often find them near the bottom of websites for smaller companies. Security banners from well-known (legitimate) Internet security companies can add an extra level of confidence when it comes to your security. But just having one isn’t enough.

Warning: Some sites add the graphic to their website to make customers feel secure, but haven’t actually invested in the protection. You can easily tell these sites by clicking on the banner. If you can’t click on it or if it doesn’t open up the security certificate on the security company’s website, it’s not authentic.

Is your payment secure?

When it’s time to enter your payment information, the website’s domain should change to https://. Technically, this means it’s an encrypted communication, so you can send private information without anyone else eavesdropping (and stealing).

Warning: Keep in mind, unethical sites can have an https:// too. That just means you’re safely sending your information to someone who may be up to no good.

Always use an online payment service or credit card.

In the United States the Fair Credit Bill Act protects consumers from fraud, legally making you responsible for only the first $50 when they use their credit card. Though, usually you won’t even have to pay this.

Paying with a check, bank transfer, or debit card can expose your bank account and leave everything in it vulnerable.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are always exceptions to every rule, especially this one. But, if you don’t feel comfortable with a site for any reason, don’t make a purchase. You often have that feeling for a reason. Trust it.

Do you have any other tricks to protect yourself online?

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