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Protect yourself when purchasing items on the Internet

Updated December 23, 2009

Purchasing items on the Internet has become a popular way of shopping for millions of consumers. However, news of hacker attacks and credit card theft leaves many people wondering if Internet shopping is really safe.

While there are some instances of theft and hacking that do occur, in general, Internet shopping is safe. There is a far greater risk of theft of your credit card information when you use your credit card for payment at establishments such as restaurants, gas stations and other stores.

However, there are a few tips that you should follow to reduce your risk of falling victim to credit card and identity theft when shopping on the Internet. Many of these tips are based on common sense.

Pay with credit cards

Remember to always pay with credit cards and not debit cards or personal checks on-line. With a credit card, your exposure to loss is limited to $50, whereas with a debit card your exposure to loss is $500, and in some cases, unlimited. Never pay by personal check on-line because you will be providing too much of your banking information. Check with your bank regarding your protection from loss if your bank account is misused.

Even when you have adequate protections in place against misuse of your account, your good credit can be harmed or destroyed by hackers. If this occurs, it can take a substantial amount of time to repair all of your banking and credit records and recover from your financial loss. Other options for purchasing items over the Internet are slowly becoming available, such as paying by digital currency, but these options are still emerging.

Understand the return policy

Check the policy for returning merchandise and obtaining refunds whenever you make a purchase on the Internet. Many Internet shopping sites do not allow for refunds or returns. Read the vendorís return policy and understand it before ordering items on the Internet.

Avoid "free gifts"

Finally, never click on "free gifts" or other items to download except from sources that you know and trust. This could result in a virus being inadvertently downloaded onto your computer.

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