Watercooler: Tips for protecting personal data while shopping online
Published: December 30, 2011 05:52PM
Updated: December 30, 2011 02:06PM

As more shoppers turn to their computers and mobile devices to shop, spending smartly is about more than knowing how to get a good deal.

Consumers can save money, time and hassle by buying online, but they’re also targets for identity theft and online scams.

So before you whip out that credit card and power up your laptop or tablet, here are some tips to protect your personal information:

Update your computer’s anti-virus and anti-spyware software • If you’re using a wireless connection, make sure it’s encrypted with a password.

Strengthen your online passwords • Avoid predictable passwords such as pet and spouse names, birthdays and consecutive numbers. Instead, incorporate random numbers, symbols and capitalized letters.

Use credit cards instead of debit cards • A stolen debit card gives an identity thief a direct line to your bank account; by using a credit card, you’ll be better protected from fraud and face less liability in the event your card number is stolen. Review your credit card statements monthly for unauthorized charges.

Shop at trusted brands with secure websites • Before making a purchase, check your browser’s status bar for “https://” URLs that indicate secure connections when placing orders. Look for delivery guarantees from online retailers and keep hard copies of order confirmations.

Be on the lookout for phishing and email scams • One popular scam sends emails, purportedly from UPS or DHL, alerting recipients that a package has been sent and asking them to fill out an attached form with their personal information. Don’t open any attachments; instead, delete the emails.

Use common sense • Beware of suspicious emails that request information such as your social security number or that promise a special deal. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.