Keep personal information private unless you know who’s collecting it, why, and how it’s going to be used.
Don’t disclose your name, address, phone number, date of birth, social security number, mother’s maiden name, or account information unless you know who you’re dealing with and what they plan to do with the information. Mother’s maiden name and social security number are especially sensitive.
Use a secure browser on your computer.
Unsecured information sent over the Internet can be intercepted. To ensure that data stored in a computer cannot be read or compromised, use a secure browser that will encrypt (convert into code) or scramble information. A browser is software that allows you to navigate the Internet and view Web sites, such as Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Most computers come with a browser already installed. If you don’t have encryption software to assure the security of your transaction, consider whether you should call or fax your order, or pay by check or money order — it depends on your preference, and the type of site you’re visiting.
Look for a security symbol before disclosing personal information.
Before giving out a credit card number or financial information online, look for a graphic on your browser that indicates the business is operating with a secure server. Usually, the symbol is a lock or key. A secure server supports encryption and protects information against third party tampering. Making purchases from a secure Web server ensures that your payment or personal information will be translated into a secret code that’s hard to crack.
Paying by credit card or charge card online offers some protection under the Fair Credit Billing Act, but don’t enter your credit or charge card information if you’re not comfortable.