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How to shop online more safely

How to shop online more safely

These tips can help you determine that you're shopping at a secure and trustworthy website.

Look for signs that the business is legitimate

Buy from reputable stores and sellers. Here are some ways to check:

  • Find out what other shoppers say. Sites like Epinions.com or BizRate have customer evaluations which can help you determine a company's legitimacy.

  • Look for third-party seals of approval. Companies can put these seals on their sites if they abide by a set of rigorous standards such as how personal information can be used. Two seals to look for:

    BBBOnline

    Better Business Bureau Online—(BBBOnline)

    or
    TRUSTe
    TRUSTe

If you see the seals, click them to make sure they link to the organization that created them. Some unscrupulous merchants will put these logos on their websites without permission.

Look for signs that the website protects your data

  • On the web page where you enter your credit card or other personal information, look for an "s" after http in the web address of that page (as shown below). (Encryption is a security measure that scrambles data as it traverses the Internet.)

  • Also make sure there is a tiny closed padlock in the address bar, or on the lower right corner of the window.

    Image of green address bar in Internet Explorer

Use a filter that warns you of suspicious websites

Browser filters warn you about reported phishing sites and block you from visiting them. For example, two browser filters are the SmartScreen Filter in Internet Explorer 8 and the Phishing Filter in Internet Explorer 7.

Keep your web browser updated

Internet Explorer 7 and 8 provide another layer of protection with websites that use Extended Validation (EV) Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificates. The address bar turns green and has both https and the closed padlock.

An EV SSL certificate not only helps ensure that communication with a website is secure, but it also includes information about the legitimacy of the website, which has been confirmed by the Certification Authority (CA) issuing the SSL Certificate.

For more information, see Internet Explorer and Extended Validation SSL certificates.