Be a safe Internet shopper

Last week, I wrote about the importance of being a smart Internet shopper. Today, I want to address online security. Identity theft typically increases during the holidays as shoppers use credit more often in stores and make more purchases online. The Internet is becoming a more and more popular place to have your identity stolen as the new generation of thieves are becoming more tech savvy. December 15 is "Green Monday," which is said to be one of the biggest online shopping days of the season; even bigger than Cyber Monday, and a perfect opportunity for identity thieves to hack into your personal information.

Consider the following when shopping online:

Protect your equipment. Install the latest virus protection software.
Shop secured sites. Before clicking the "Buy Now" button, make sure the URL of the Web site you're shopping on begins with "https://" and there's a locked padlock on the page.
Pay by credit card. Using a credit card is the safest way to shop online. The Fair Credit Billing Act gives you the right to dispute credit card purchases, and in most cases will only hold you responsible for the first $50 in charges.
Read your statements. Pay close attention to your credit card bills and make sure there aren't any unauthorized charges.
Create smart passwords. Don’t use social security numbers as your password, and don’t save passwords in your web browser without a master password to protect them.

Identity theft is recognized as a serious social issue by agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, the FBI and the United States Secret Service. For more information about protecting your good name, visit www.usdoj.gov or www.consumer.gov.

Tanisha (Warner) Smith is a former communications manager at MMI.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.