We may not be completely safe from on line hackers and spammers if we choose to shop on line, but at least there are some things we can do to lessen the chances. Internet security, in fact is a booming business.
Enonymous Corp., A SanDiego-based company, unveiled a free service that rates more that 10,000 Web sites on how good a job they do keeping your personal information secret.
By visiting www.enonymous.com, you can download onto your computer's hard drive a program that will display, in a little window, a site's privacy rating. Sites are ranked from one to four stars. A recent check included AOL.com, Buy.com, and QVC.com among the four-star ranking while Ticketmaster.com and Gap.com has just one star.
Here are more helpful tips for securing yourself on line:
- Trust your gut. Skip companies that seem shady, offer prices that are too good to be true, or pressure you to make an instant buying decision.
- The same old scams in print advertising and telemarketing - "work at home" offers, miracle drugs, lose weight fast, foreign lottery schemes, pyramid scams - are around in cyberspace.
- Use a credit card for Web purchases. Federal law generally limits your liability for bogus card charges to $50.
- Check your credit card statements as soon as they come for any unauthorized charges.
- Consider getting one credit card to use only for Web purchases. This can protect your other cards and credit rating if your Web-shopping card is pirated.
- Some Web sites' addresses begin with https, adding an "s" to the more common http. That indicates that the site uses an encryption technology called Secure Sockets Layer to keep your credit card number secret.
- Another indication a site uses security software to protect your credit card and personal data is a lock or padlock icon at the bottom of the screen or the status bar.
- When buying goods through an auction site such as eBay, consider paying a little extra to have your payment put in escrow until you get what you paid for and are satisfied with it.
- Be skeptical of rating services for auction sites, which can be loaded up with favorable comments by scammers' accomplices.
- If the site does not post return, refund, and shipping policies, call or e-mail the seller asking for them before you buy anything.
- Print out and save offers, purchase forms, and e-mail from
- companies you shop with on line.
- Don't answer questions on registration forms you think are intrusive or unnecessary, or - if you can do this and keep a clear conscience - lie and tell the company you are an unemployed high school dropout. They won't bother trying to sell you anything later.