Security: How Secure Is Your Transaction?
Secure Internet ConnectionsHow do you tell if the Internet connections are secure?
"Identity Theft" sometimes occurs when someone gets your credit card, bank account or social security number and buys goods or gets credit cards or loans in your name. This is a growing problem, so you should carefully guard personal information that might allow a thief to impersonate you or use your credit.
Industry has developed technology that can scramble sensitive information, such as your credit card number, so that it can be read only by the merchant you are dealing with and your credit card issuer. This ensures that your payment information cannot be read by anyone else or changed along the way. There are several ways to determine if you have that protection when you are sending payment information on the web.
- Look for the picture of the unbroken key or closed lock in your browser window. Either one indicates that the security is operative. A broken key or any open lock indicates it is not.
- Look to see if the web address on the page that asks for your credit card information begins with "https:" instead of "http."
- Some web sites use the words "Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)" or a pop up box that says you are entering a secure area.
Phone-In OptionWould you rather give your credit card information over the phone?
Many web merchants allow you to order online and give your credit card information over the phone. If you do this, make a note of the phone number, company, the date and time of your call, and the name of the person who recorded your credit card number.
PasswordsDo you use different passwords?
Passwords are required at various stages of computer use and web shopping to help assure that someone is not misusing your computer or personal information. If you use a password to log on to your network or computer, use a different password for orders. Some web sites may require you to create a password for future orders. You may want to create a special password for particularly sensitive sites, such as your home banking site.
How did you choose your password?
The best passwords are not your address, birth date, phone number, recognizable words, or even your pet's name (which might be guessed by someone who has other information about you.). Choose a string of at least five letters, numbers, and punctuation marks. One easy way to create a memorable password is to take the first letter of each word in an expression or song lyric, and add some numbers and punctuation marks. For example, "tmottobg!5" is derived from a line in "Take Me Out To The Old Ball Game."
How should you record your password?
Don't write down any password near your computer where someone could see it or carry it in your purse or billfold. If you do record it somewhere, reverse the order of the characters or transpose some letters or numbers. That way, someone finding it won't have discovered your true password.
Who wants to know your password or other identifying information?
Be very careful about responding to an e-mail, phone call, fax, or letter from anyone who asks for your password(s), social security number, birth date, bank account, credit card number, mother's maiden name, or other personal information. Sellers and financial institutions do not ask you for such information unless you are entering into a transaction with them.
Identity thieves make up emails that look remarkably like real websites. If you receive an inquiry for personal information, do not reply directly. To verify that the person contacting you really does work for the seller, call and request to speak to that person directly You should only have to provide your password to get to your online account, and you should not give your credit card number except when you are actually placing an order. And you should only give your password and credit card number in a secure connection on a web site, not in ordinary e-mail.
VirusesHow can you avoid viruses?
If you receive an unsolicited commercial message, you should not open any attached file whose name ends in ".exe." Clicking on such files could activate a computer virus that might affect the operation of your computer and/or damage the information stored on your computer.
You can also protect yourself against viruses carried by e-mail or by computer files that you've received on a floppy disk, by purchasing and installing on your computer or network a virus-protection program. Remember that these programs need to be updated as new viruses are invented. You may subscribe to a service that will either automatically update your anti-virus program or alert you when updates are available and guide you through the installation process. Some internet service providers now provide some anti-virus protection.