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Online merchants need to reassure consumers about information safety

Mar 10, 2014 Dave King

With relatively recent incidents at Target and Neiman Marcus putting millions of shoppers at risk of identity theft, people may turn to online merchants for purchases out of fear that another data breach may occur at stores. However, this can happen online as well, so Internet merchants need to reassure customers that they are doing everything they can to keep personal information safe.

If credit card information is stolen, consumer credit scores can take a major hit, which is why online retailers need to inform customers how to protect their information when shopping on their website.

Make sure to use a personal computer
Cybercriminals often prey on public computers, business owners need to tell customers to only purchase gifts online from their own devices. PCs that are meant for public use generally have spyware that records information as it is entered, which means credit card numbers may be recorded. There may be a fear that an item will be sold out if they wait until they get home from a hotel or the airport, but a major headache can be created by purchasing an item from a public terminal, so it often is best to wait.

Don't use Wi-Fi that isn't password protected
Even if people are in the safety of their home, there is still the chance that credit card information could be compromised. Therefore, setting up a strong password for wireless connections to keep unwanted people out is essential. This passcode should not be the user's name, birthday or favorite number, as these are all fairly easy to guess. Instead, they should create a unique combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols.

Only shop on websites that are secure
One of the most important things to look at before entering credit card information is the URL. People will want to be sure that the Web address includes "https" and not just "http" as it is secure. This means that personal data will be encrypted before it is sent over the Internet - making it much more difficult for cybercriminals to gain access.

Type Web addresses manually into the search bar
While this may seem like an unnecessary step, people could be preventing major issues by manually entering the URL into the address bar. By clicking a link from an email, consumers could be setting themselves up for a phishing scam - potentially leading to credit card information being stolen. When in a rush it would be easy to click a link, but people should be sure to take the extra time to avoid unnecessary issues.

If online merchants aren't able to provide peace of mind to shoppers, they could risk losing out on business. The combination of ensuring that everything possible is being done to protect information and providing safety tips, such as the four above, could be a good strategy.