Data Privacy for Business and Individuals

Online shopping – all the convenience with less of the risk

online shopping collage

I don’t like crowds, or malls, or parking lots. So I do most of my purchases online. Additionally, with so many relatives in other cities, I love online shopping for holidays; Free shipping, free wrapping, and I know my gifts get to their destination. The convenience is high, BUT like all things online, when you are entering your personal information in to a website, you need to be careful.

Here are some guidelines to make sure your shopping experience goes safely.

Selecting the company

I like to go big or go home. That is, I mostly pick large reliable retailers that I know and trust. For more personal or hard-to-find items, I have had great success with Etsy or eBay, in which case I am trusting the online retailer with my personal information.

  • If you are worried that the company itself is actually legitimate, you can check with the Better Business Bureau. The site works in both Canada and the US.
  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card. The transactions are traced by the credit card company and they may be able to help in a bad situation. Even better, use Paypal when available. Paypal does not share credit card information with the retailers and they vet the companies that use them. Though keep in mind that your name and shipping address are still available to the retailer you use.

Making an account

Before you go creating your 170th account online, make sure that the site requires it. Often having an account means the site maintains your billing address and preferences, but if you are making a one-off purchase, many sites allow purchasing without registering. More accounts mean a bigger digital footprint for you, and the temptation to reuse username/password combination can present a security risk.

If you do need a new account:

  • Try to use a different password with your email address. In a recent breaches, hackers were able to log in to a high number of financial and social network accounts because the email-password combinations were the same.
  • Limit the information you enter to what is required
  • Make sure you watch for those checkboxes at the end where you agree to have your address or information shared, and uncheck them.
  • Read the Terms and Conditions. I know, no one does, but pretend. 😉

If you chose to log in using a Social Network profile:

There are now options on many sites to log in via Twitter/Facebook/Google. What does this mean? You select the network you want to log-in through and then no need for a new account. Too good to be true? You need to decide based on how comfortable you are with the data being shared. By using social sign-on you are allowing the company you are shopping with to have access to your social information. They like it because it allows them to show your name and picture on reviews and comments. It also allows them to target adds and search results to you.

Inputting  your data

Time to put in the important details; your name, address and payment info. These 3 pieces of info together are all that is needed to make purchases on your behalf, so keep them secure.

  • To ensure you are putting your data in a secure site, look for an ‘S’ in the web address so it should say ‘https://’ not ‘http://’. Data in unsecured sites can be grabbed by hackers. If a retailer you need only has a Http site then I recommend you call them to give them your credit card number.
  • Try to do your purchasing from your home or places that have secure WiFi. Free and open WiFi like restaurants and libraries, can be easily intercepted without you knowing.
  • NOTE: Credit cards are charged when the billing address matches the credit card number. Hackers are able to ‘guess’ credit card numbers + the 3 digit security code using software, but credit card companies will usually stop the transaction if the billing address doesn’t match. Another reason to use a site like PayPal that maintains all 3 pieces so they are not being shared over and over again.

A little bit of due diligence goes a long way. Stay safe and happy shopping!

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  1. Very informative! I never register using my FB account as I assumed that gave retailers my general info, but I didn’t realize that friends who registered using FB were passing along my name.

    Is it only my email that is communicated as part of the friend list or is it more?

    Thanks for the good info 🙂

    • Thanks Amy! When a retailer requests the friends list then Facebook returns the person’s name and a unique ID. The retailer can then use tools to get anything that is public. That does not include your email address unless it is also public. If your friend signs in via Facebook AND you sign in using Facebook, then the retailer can put the two together. Let me know if you have more questions 🙂

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