As the Internet matures and e-commerce becomes more mainstream, each of us must guard ourselves when providing credit card numbers and private information. In today's online economy, it seems that asking for credit card information is as common as asking for our home address or phone number.
Many of us have heard the horror stories of stolen identities and how people have had their lives ruined by the simple theft of a credit card or social security number out of a dumpster. Imagine how easily your identity can be stolen over the Internet if you are careless about the way you give out personal and financial information.
Recently, I received an e-mail from a search engine of which I am a registered user. It was announcing a partnership with a travel auction site and provided me with a hyperlink to check out the site. Upon entering this new site, I was prompted to register to become a "free" member before I could go any farther. I figured this would only take a minute, so I chose to begin filling out the membership form. About halfway down the page, the membership form asked me for a credit card number, expiration date and type of card. Not only did it ask for this information, but the card information was required to become a member of the site. YEAH RIGHT!
Keep in mind, I knew nothing about the site, which I was visiting for the first time, and they were asking for private financial information. In addition, there was no indication that the site was secure. Even if it was secure, I had no idea who these people were. I did not become a member.
This is the type of caution you need to use while on the Internet to protect yourself from improper use of your personal information. Here are some tips to assist you in how to use your private information on the net.
- Use Web sites run by companies you know and trust.
- Never give your personal information to a site you know nothing about.
- Only give your credit card information to a site once you have determined that it is secure and you wish to make a purchase.
- If applicable, always check refund policies prior to your confirmation of purchase.
- If a site you do not know much about asks for private financial information and you want to become a member, find a phone number and call to get more information about how the site operates and how your information will be used.
- Most importantly, always read the text of any online agreements or contracts before selecting "YES" or "OK". These simple clicks can become legally binding.