Managing Your Credit and Debt

Using Your Credit Card Safely for Internet Purchases

You may be a veteran online shopper, or you might be just contemplating making your first credit card purchase over the Internet. Either way, you should take certain precautions when using your credit card online.

In most cases, using your credit card online is just as safe as charging purchases at your favorite store. There are safeguards you can use to prevent fraud and abuse when charging items online. The following will help you have peace of mind as you shop the Internet.

  • Designate one credit card exclusively for online use. This will enable you to track your online charges, and to easily identify Internet credit card fraud if it occurs.
  • When ordering online, print and save the receipt. Compare this receipt to your monthly credit card statement.
  • When you receive your monthly credit card statement, review it carefully. Contact the credit card company immediately with any discrepancies.
  • Immediately report to your credit card company any lost or stolen credit cards or any fraudulent activity with your card.
  • Do business only with secure sites. These sites use encryption when submitting data over the Internet. Computer users can quickly identify whether a site is using encryption by looking for the closed lock or closed key symbol in the browser. If the lock or key are closed, the site is using encryption software and is secure. Do not send your credit card information unless the site is secure. Although encrypted sites do not guarantee against fraudulent activity, the encryption should prevent your personal information from being stolen before it arrives at the intended site.
  • It is never a good idea to send your credit card information by email. If there is no other way to get the credit card information to the intended user, it is a good idea to send parts of the information in multiple emails, i.e., send half your number in one email, half in a second email and the expiration date in a third email.
  • When using passwords, do not use common names or your Social Security number. Mix letters (upper and lower case) and numbers whenever possible.
  • Try to do business with reputable sites only. Although this may be difficult over the Internet, trust your instincts. If the site does not appear legitimate or if the offer is "too good to be true," don't take the chance on ordering.
  • If fraudulent activity occurs with your credit card, excluding electronic funds transfer (ATM), you will be responsible only for the first $50 of fraudulent charges (per card). Many financial institutions will waive this fee if asked.

Overall the Internet is a fairly safe place to do online credit card shopping. Follow the guidelines above, and always check your monthly statements against your records of what you actually purchased.

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