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How do I know if the company I’m buying from is safe?

Online data thieves can set up a convincing storefront and start processing payments within minutes. So when you find that “hot new brand” that you know nothing about, be sure you know who you are buying from before you order. You may want to search for independent reviews, or confirm with others that the website or company is legitimate. 

You may want to only shop from reputable companies that have an established business history. While you cannot guarantee those companies will not suffer a data breach, at least you’ll know that they are not data thieves. Even when shopping from reputable companies, however, watch out for fake sites that mimic popular sites or fake warnings asking you to log into your account to update information.

How can I make sure I’m shopping securely?

These days, every business website should be fully secured, period. This means that every URL should start with “https://” instead of a simple “http://” prefix. Additionally, you should always check to make sure your web browser has marked the website as secure. If it’s secure, you’ll see a green button or padlock icon near the address bar.

To be sure, click the padlock icon to see the site’s security information and to make sure its certificates are up to date. Most modern browsers will proactively alert you if any of these details seem questionable, but it never hurts to check yourself.

Many small businesses and online retailers maintain storefronts on the most popular online shopping platforms, which consumers can typically rely on to be secure.

Can I shop on a public Wi-Fi?

Public Wi-Fi is one of the most common ways for hackers to find targets, and data thieves can even set up phony networks or redirect legitimate traffic from open networks to their own servers. That means a public Wi-Fi network is never safe—even when protected—because you’ll have no way of knowing whether a data thief is “spoofing” the connection protocols to steal data or monitor your activity.

Entering or transmitting your payment information in that scenario may be like handing it directly to the thief, so stay safe and only shop when you are at home or on a secured network at your workplace.

Can I use my debit card or checking account to shop online?

If a thief gets your debit or checking account numbers, they may do a lot of damage by the time you realize something is wrong. While you are likely to eventually get that money back, it can take a long time and is often more complicated than disputing a credit card transaction.

Additionally, credit cards usually have stronger fraud protections than debit or checking accounts, and most major issuers have aggressive fraud monitoring that will alert you when a suspicious transaction has occurred.

For the ultimate protection, you may want to use a virtual card number. A virtual number is usually a single-use payment number that automatically deactivates once you’ve made your purchase. Many major banks will generate a virtual number for you for free, or you can use a third-party service such as Google or Apple Pay.

Are my saved logins and payment information safe? 

Though it is convenient to let a website, or your phone or computer automatically remember your login and payment information, you may want to resist the temptation. In the event your device is hacked or lost, thieves could immediately have complete access to your financial life. This may even extend to your personal email, which may allow hackers to bypass security measures like multifactor authentication.

With smart online habits and payment practices, you can keep yourself safe from identity theft when shopping online. These Rocket Lawyer documents can help if you have had your identity stolen. If you have more questions about shopping safely online, or identity theft, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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