Using any sort of electronic payment should make today’s consumers jittery. When major retailers get hacked, and hundreds of thousands of credit card numbers are compromised, everyone is looking for a solution. While there isn’t much consumers can do to make sure companies keep our data safe, there are plenty of things we can do to help ensure our privacy is protected when shopping online.
Image via Flickr by nosha
If you’ve ever tried to spy on someone’s Internet activity in a café or library, but you couldn’t see anything on the screen, then you have probably encountered a privacy shield or filter. These amazing (or annoying, if you’re the eavesdropper) items fit over the laptop screen, providing an added layer of protection for both the screen and the data on it. These are perfect for people who work in public areas, such as businessmen/women who rely on public networks while traveling.
If you’re using a public Wi-Fi system, never access confidential information such as bank accounts, client contact lists, or your secret plan to turn Pine Bluff, Arkansas into prime waterfront real estate via the power of global warming.
There are two reasons for this caution: the eyes around you and the digital thieves lurking on the public network.
Yes, you can block the eyes around you with a privacy filter, but that doesn’t stop budding hackers from stealing your information. When in public, assume everyone can see your information. The guy in the hoodie and dark glasses? Assume he’s a hacker. The toddler playing with her mom’s iPad? Hacker.
Never access private information or accounts via a public network. If you let your guard down, you could unintentionally purchase that kid a lifetime supply of candy.
Shop With Pre-paid Credit Cards
Using your regular credit card to purchase items online puts you at risk. If someone steals that information from a website, then they can use your credit card just like it was stolen from your wallet.
Prepaid cards offer an extra layer of protection. Since you only have a limited amount of money on the card, you don’t stand to lose as much money. Find a reliable card, keep a fairly low balance on it, and protect it just like you would your other accounts. That will make you a little safer when you buy online.
Only Use Trustworthy Sites
A good hacker can steal information from practically any store or website. Still, the type of site that you use matters. It’s best to choose well-known sites instead of small ones that you’ve never heard of. Some sites exist solely to steal information from consumers. Obviously you want to avoid those!
You should also choose sites that use https:// instead of http://. Https encrypts information that you send over the Internet. Anyone eavesdropping would need a cipher to know what information you’ve sent to a website.
That isn’t the case with http, which doesn’t encrypt information.
You want that extra layer of security on every website that asks for private information. Your banks, credit cards, stores, social media sites… they should all use https. Without it, you are in danger.
Storing your documents in the cloud has been one of the best collaborative solutions for corporate life in some time. However, if you store secure information, such as passwords and logins, on public sites like DropBox, Google Drive or Microsoft Sky Drive, you may be placing yourself, and your data, at risk.
Keeping private info on those sites is about as smart as keeping your life’s savings in a bus station locker.
While it’s becoming increasingly frustrating to remember all of your passwords, the cloud is probably not the place to store them. If you need help managing multiple passwords, there are more secure ways of doing so.
Online privacy is a mounting concern as more and more consumers buy online. It’s essential to do what you can to protect your identity online. From ensuring your screen is protected to keeping your passwords safe, online privacy is everyone’s business.