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Shopping Safely Online

Shopping Safely Online At Christmas Time

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Introduction

Christmas shopping season is in full swing and there are really only two ways to get those presents you’re searching for:

• Wading through the crowds in all of the retail stores,

• Shopping on the Internet.

There are plenty of books on how to deal with scams in the retail stores, and, truthfully, most of these scams are pretty straightforward and easily detected by consumers.

The Internet has taken its place beside the telephone and television as an important part of people’s lives. Consumers use the Internet to shop, bank and invest online.

Most consumers use credit or debit cards to pay for online purchases, but other payment methods, like “e-wallets,” are becoming more common.

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AND HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO PAY?

Most online shoppers use credit cards to pay for their online purchases. But debit cards — which authorize merchants to debit your bank account electronically — are increasing in use. Your debit card may be an automated teller machine (ATM) card that can be used for retail purchases.

To complete a debit card transaction, you may have to use a personal identification number (PIN), some form of a signature or other identification, or a combination of these identifiers. Some cards have both credit and debit features: You select the payment option at the point-of-sale.

But remember, although a debit card may look like a credit card, the money for debit purchases is transferred almost immediately from your bank account to the merchant’s account. In addition, your liability limits for a lost or stolen debit card and unauthorized use are different from your liability if your credit card is lost, stolen or used without your authorization.

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Other electronic payment systems — sometimes referred to as “electronic money” or “e-money” — also are now common. Their goal is to make purchasing simpler. For example, “stored-value” cards let you transfer cash value to a card. They’re commonly used on public transportation, at colleges and universities, at gas stations, and for prepaid telephone use.

Many retailers also sell stored-value cards in place of gift certificates. Some stored-value cards work offline, say, to buy a candy bar at a vending machine; others work online, for example, to buy an item from a website;
some have both offline and online features.

Some cards can be “reloaded” with additional value, at a cash machine; other cards are “disposable” — you throw them away after you use all their value. Some stored-value cards contain computer chips that make them “smart” cards: These cards may act like a credit card as well as a debit card, and also may contain stored value.

Some Internet-based payment systems allow value to be transmitted through computers, sometimes called “e-wallets.” You can use “e-wallets” to make “micropayments” — very small online or offline payments for things like a magazine or fast food.

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When you buy something using your e-wallet, the balance on your online account decreases by that amount. “E-wallets” may work by using some form of stored value or by automatically accessing an account you’ve set up through a computer system connected to your credit or debit card account.

“PAYING” IT SAFE

We encourage you to take steps to make sure your transactions are secure and your personal information is protected. Although you can’t control fraud or deception on the Internet, you can take action to recognize it, avoid it and report it. Here’s how.

  • Use a secure browser — software that encrypts or scrambles the purchase information you send over the Internet — to help guard the security of your information as it is transmitted to a website. Be sure your browser has the most up-to-date encryption capabilities by using the latest version available from the manufacturer. You also can
    download some browsers for free over the Internet. When submitting your purchase information, look for the “lock” icon on the browser’s status bar, and the phrase “https” in the URL address for a website, to be sure your information is secure during transmission.
  • Check the site’s privacy policy, before you provide any personal financial information to a website. In particular, determine how the information will be used or shared with others. Also check the site’s statements about the security provided for your information….

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