Avoid identity theft when shopping online

While being able to shop online is convenient, you also risk identity theft. Follow these tips to help safeguard your personal information and reduce your chances of becoming a target. For added peace of mind, consider an identity theft protection plan; AAA members can enroll in free or discounted options through Experian®
Man on laptop

Develop good online habits

Don’t pay through an unsecure connection. When making a payment online, make sure you’re on a secure connection. Reputable retailers will direct you to a secure or encrypted checkout page so that only you and the merchant can view your credit card information. To ensure you’re on a secure connection, look for:

  • A lock icon in your browser window
  • A URL that starts with "https" (instead of just “http”)
  • The wording "Secure Sockets Layer" (SSL)
  • A pop-up box that says you’re entering a secure portion of the website.

 

Avoid passwords that are easy to hack. Create strong passwords for your accounts. Passwords with your birthdate, address, or phone number could easily be compromised. Some websites may have their own specific guidelines, but a strong password will generally include a random mix of the following:

  • Upper and lower case letters
  • Numbers
  • Symbols

You can also increase your security by using longer passwords, which are more difficult to hack. Research from the National Institute of Standards and Technology says the length of a password influences its strength, and recommends using as many characters as possible.

Person shopping on tablet

Tread with caution when paying

Use a credit card, check, or cashier's check. A credit card is a secure way to pay online because you have more protection if the retailer doesn’t fulfill your order. According to U.S. law, your out-of-pocket liability for unauthorized credit card charges is limited to $50, and many card issuers will even cover the first $50 and offer zero liability on unauthorized charges or billing errors.

Avoid using multiple credit cards online. Designate one credit card for all of your online shopping so it's easier to monitor charges and spot errors or identity theft red flags. Another option is to use virtual credit cards for online purchases. This means you’ll have a unique card number for each transaction, making it harder for identity thieves to exploit your information. And while the number changes for online transactions, the charges apply to one account. Ask your credit card company or bank if you’re interested in using virtual credit cards.

Don’t store your credit card information. Instead of saving your credit card information with online vendors, type your card number in manually for every transaction. If an identity thief cracks a password to a site with your credit card information, they could proceed to make fraudulent purchases under your name.

Woman on phone

Respond quickly to fraudulent charges

If you spot a suspicious charge to your account, even for a small amount, contact your bank or credit card company immediately. The account can be closed and you can get a new card to help head off further fraud or identity theft.

Get free identity theft protection

By avoiding habits that put you at risk while shopping online, you can help protect yourself against identity theft. Get the tools you need to help safeguard your identity and resolve potential issues by enrolling in ProtectMyID® Essential, a free plan for AAA members provided by Experian®.

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AAA does not endorse any vendor and disclaims responsibility for any product, promotion, or content featured herein or on AAA.com.

 

Information taken from "NIST Special Publication 800-63B, Digital Identity Guidelines," National Institute of Standards and Technology, June 2017.