Here are some tips to ensure that your online shopping experience remains safe and enjoyable:
- Make sure that you are doing business with a reputable Internet merchant. Check with the Better Business Bureau or state and local consumer agencies, and look for the following information on the website to check if a merchant is reputable:
- Information about the offer – Make sure that you learn all you can about the offer, and how to contact the company if you have a question.
- Information about the merchant – Find the company’s address and telephone number.
- Your computer browser can tell you if the place where you are about to send the information is secure. If you cannot determine this, do not put your payment card information over the Internet.
- Guard your personal information. Don’t provide information that you are uncomfortable giving. Never give anyone personal passwords.
- Keep records. Print out all information about online purchases.
- Pay with a payment card – as this is often the safest way to pay online. In North America, the cardholder has the right to dispute charges if the goods or services were misrepresented or never delivered. And cardholders are not responsible for fraudulent purchases made on their account.
- Be careful of e-mail requests for personal information, especially when they come from companies that should already possess such data. Do not click on the links provided in such e-mails.
Here are some guidelines to keep thieves from getting your personal information:
- Never leave your purse or wallet unattended, and don’t carry your Social Security card, birth certificate, or passport in your wallet or purse unless it’s absolutely necessary. If your Social Security card or driver’s license is missing, contact the appropriate agency immediately.
- Sign your credit and debit cards in permanent ink as soon as you receive them. Do not write your credit or debit card account number on a check, or use it for identification when paying by other means.
- Call your card issuer if a new or reissued card does not arrive when expected, and be sure to cancel any inactive payment card accounts.
- Never throw away receipts in a public trash container. When disposing of receipts or old statements, destroy the areas where the account number is visible.
- Make a note of when your financial statements arrive each month. If your statements stop arriving, contact your bank immediately. Check those statements frequently and carefully. If you find an unauthorized or questionable transaction, call the appropriate organizations immediately.
- Never give any payment card, bank, or Social Security information to anyone by telephone, even if you made the call, unless you can positively verify that the call is legitimate and there is a true need for the information.
- Keep a list of all your credit accounts and bank accounts in a secure place, with account numbers, expiration dates, and telephone numbers of customer service and fraud departments.
- Obtain a copy of your credit report once a year from one of the three national credit bureaus. If the report data is incorrect, write the credit bureau immediately and keep a copy of your letter.
- Call your financial institution immediately. It may want to cancel your current card and mail you a new one. Check to verify that your mailing address has not been changed.
- Contact the three national credit bureaus to let them know you are a victim of fraud. They will place a “Fraud Alert” on your file. You can also requests copies of your report, which you should review carefully.
- You can contact the credit bureaus at: Equifax, (800) 525-6285 or P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241 Experian, (888) 397-3742 or P.O. Box 949, Allen, TX 75013-0949 Trans Union, (800) 680-7289 or Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834
- Diligently check your statements in the months following to make sure the problem has been completely resolved.
- Report the fraudulent activity to the proper authorities, such as Police, Social Security Administration (if your SSN has been stolen) or the Federal Trade Commission (877-438-4338) in the case of identity theft.
The federal banking, thrift, and credit union regulatory agencies have published an informational brochure to assist consumers in identifying and preventing a new type of Internet fraud known as “phishing”. The brochure explains the basics of “phishing”, the steps consumers can take to protect themselves, and the actions that consumers can take if they become a victim of identity theft. The brochure, Internet Pirates Are Trying To Steal Your Information, is available in a downloadable form through the Federal Reserve Board’s Web Site: http://www.federalreserve.gov/consumers.htm