Don’t Lose Your Money

By: Richard Lowe, Jr.

Is it safe to purchase products on the internet? Depends upon your viewpoint and how you make the purchase. If you follow safe purchasing practices, it is perfectly acceptable to buy goods online. If you don't, then your money may be at risk.

In order to be perfectly safe, you should make every purchase on the internet with a credit card. This is very important, as credit cards have numerous advantages over other forms of payment. Perhaps the most important consideration is the credit card does not take money from your wallet or checking account. So if there is a dispute it's the banks money that is up in the air, not yours.

On the other hand, if you pay with a debit card the money is immediately withdrawn from your account. While many banks will be very helpful in a dispute, it is your money that is not available until the dispute is settled. This may be a period of a few days, weeks, or even months.

Be careful with debit cards for many reasons. Remember, you are depending upon the honesty of software and webmasters to make the transaction you request. There is really no technical reason why a website could not display that it was debiting your account for $100 and actually charge $200. This could happen intentionally (in the case of fraud) or by accident. In either case, your checking account is down by an additional $100 until you can prove to the bank that a mistake was made.

Another good habit is to always use a small limit credit card for internet purchases. I use a card with a $500 credit limit for my purchases. Thus, if there is some fraud the most that I can be charged is $500. In addition, this card is not my primary credit line, so even if the card is fraudulently charged it does not take money that I might require for other purchases.

There are specific maximum liability limits on fraudulently used credit cards, and there are no comparable laws for debit cards and electronic checks. In these cases, you are depending upon the good will and procedures of the bank, which may not be inclined to settle in your favor. In the case of the credit card, they are legally bound to a predictable set of rules.

Another good practice is to make sure you are using a secure connection. You can tell by checking the web site address. An unsecured connection begins with "http:" and a secure connection begins with "https:". In addition, the browser will show a small lock character at the bottom of the window.

This is important because it is possible (actually, to be more precise, it is simple) to intercept a transaction on the internet. If the transaction is secure, it means the information is scrambled so that it can only be read by the intended audience. Unsecured transactions are simply normal text that can be read by anyone who cares to look.

It's also a good idea to be sure that you are actually doing business with a reputable organization. It's so easy to perform a search on the internet that it's worth checking a company in a few search engines before giving them your money - especially if you have not done business with them before. I usually head to Google or Altavista and enter "better business bureau" and the name of the company. This will often pull up some information of value. For example, searching on "better business bureau don lapre" will display some very interesting data which is useful to know before purchasing anything from that organization.

Something very important to remember is just because an email says it is from a company you recognize does not mean it is actually from that company. For example, you could receive an email that says you need to renew your "America Online" account and gives you a link to click upon. You click and get to a web site which asks for your credit card number. That website almost certainly has nothing to do with America Online, and you will probably lose some money in the transaction.

You should NEVER click on any hyperlink contained within a spam (unsolicited) email. In fact, you should never under any conditions do any kind of business with any company which sends you spam. Why not? Well, in addition to the ethical considerations of spam, you have no idea who these people really are and whether or not they are honest. In addition, if you purchase something from them you are reinforcing their belief that spam is a good practice.

It is also a very good idea to be sure that you are actually on the website that you think you are on. There have been a couple of times that I mistyped a URL and found myself on a website which looked like the one I wanted but actually had nothing to do with it. For example, you could have left the "t" off "" or added an extra "o" to "".

Believe it or not, it is also possible to "hijack" a website domain name. This means someone could change a domain name which is normally perfectly valid to their own website. This, you might believe you were shopping on your favorite retail store website, but you could really be entering your credit card data into some criminal's look- alike site.

How do you protect against all of this? Don't stop shopping on the internet - it's too convenient and simple. Instead, shop smart. Always use a small limit credit card - this way, if the site is fraudulent you can use the credit card companies rules to your advantage - and you are doing it on your own money.

Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets. This website includes over 1,000 free articles to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge. Web Site Address: Weekly newsletter: Daily Tips:

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