12 Ways to Shop Smarter and Safer Online

Spreading your credit card number over the Internet can leave your personal and bank information vulnerable. Follow these 12 tips that will turn you into a smart online shopper.

Photo By: Carley Knobloch

Store Passwords Safely

It's tempting to keep all your passwords in one document on your computer, but you're begging for them to be lifted or hacked. Instead, use a safe, strong password manager such as LastPass or Dashlane to help you store them.

Don't Use a Debit Card

If they fall into the wrong hands, debit cards are unlikely to offer the same protection as credit cards. It's easier for someone to drain your account and hard for you to recover the money.

Keep Tabs on Online Orders

Online purchases are tough to keep track of while they're being processed and shipped. The Slice app tracks your packages and keeps track of your receipts, and lets you know if the item you purchased has gone down in price, so you can get a refund.

Check the Return Policy

Before you hit the purchase button online, know whether you can send it back, if you or the company will pay for the return and whether there's a restocking fee.

Look for "https"

Hold it, happy shopper! Only type in your credit card info into a browser if you see the letters "https" instead of "http" in the URL (the "s" stands for secure) or the image of a lock before the URL.

Don't Shop Using Public Wi-Fi

While it might be tempting to knock out your gift list at Starbucks, it's too easy for a hacker to steal your personal data. Public hotspots don't often include security, such as over-the-air encryption. 

Get Coupon Codes Online

Before you make a purchase, check online sites like RetailMeNot and Coupon Sherpa for coupon codes — you might find big savings.

Never Forget a Coupon

Always forgetting your printed coupons at home? Scan them with SnipSnap, which will automatically turn them into mobile offers and notify you when you're near the store.

Avoid Identity Theft

Make sure your online identity and finances are safe with a watchdog site like LifeLock, which is constantly scanning to be sure no one is using your information. It alerts you if there's anything suspicious, and its team will help you if you become a victim.

Shop With the Big Guys

You may want to shop local to help the little guy, but not so much online. If you're unfamiliar with the site and it isn't secure, then the deal you're getting might not be such a deal.

Check Your Charges

Don't wait for your credit card statement to arrive. Make a habit of regularly checking it online, or set up alerts with your bank, so you'll get a text if your cards are used by someone else.

Use an Anti-Virus Software

Like a vaccine for your computer, a program like Bitdefender, Norton or McAfee can add an extra level of protection against malware and other online viruses.