10 Tips for Safe Shopping Online

I don’t know about you, but I am shopping more than ever online. One thing that drives me crazy is that I have had my credit card ‘hacked’ at least a half dozen times in the last 10 years.

Has that happened to you? It is so frustrating!

The worst part is if you have it tied to membership sites, like Netflix or your membership at the gym. You have to go contact everyone to update your card number!

After getting burned too many times, I think I’ve finally gotten my house (of credit cards) in order. It’s work, I admit, but so is cleaning up from a hack.

If you’ve had your credit hacked, or even if you just realize you need to get some discipline within your own house, here are some ideas on how to stay safe while you’re shopping online.

1. Protect Your Account Information

When you’re out shopping at a physical store (yes, it still happens), take care who can see your card. Don’t stand there in the checkout line with your card in your hand where anyone can see the number.

And for you women, when you’re going to a party, don’t take your wallet if you don’t have to. If that’s not possible, keep your purse with you (I know that’s annoying) or at least remove all unnecessary credit cards from your wallet and leave them at home.

I had a friend who accidentally left her purse at a neighbor’s house overnight after a party. The next morning, she retrieved it, but her husband insisted she cancel the three credit cards and a debit card that were left unattended for 16 hours. It would have been so much easier to just leave the wallet at home.

And hopefully it goes without saying that you should never email your username or password, ever. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t consider emailing a copy of your trading account statement. Same goes for any financially related information. Email is just not that secure.

2. Assign One Card for Online Usage

This one took me a while to figure out. Now I give every credit card a job. I have one card that’s only for online purchases. Another is only for automatic payments (like said gym and Netflix memberships). You get the idea.

And then don’t carry the cards you’re using for internet and automatic payments.

So the ones in your wallet are only at physical risk. And the rest are only at risk online. Now it’s easier to spot something wrong when fraudulent usage doesn’t fit the job of any given card.

3. Help the Credit Card Company to Help You

Make sure your account information is updated, like when you move, get a new phone number, or get a new email account. This reduces the chances of mail or messages falling into the wrong hands.

And take advantage of all the security features and alerts your credit card companies offer. Usually, you can get email or text alerts when spending limits are exceeded, passwords are changed, and so on.

4. Follow Password Best Practices

You’ve heard me preach about this one before. If you’re a trader, you already know about setting safe passwords and keeping them safe. I won’t go over all those rules again, since I’ve already written that post.

But even if you have heard the rules, are you following them?

If not, put this on your to-do list NOW, especially if you’re reading this during a heavy shopping season.

And even if you’ve done a decent job of securing access to accounts on your trading computer, what about your tablet and your smartphone? Secure them as well.

I know it’s a hassle to have a password or PIN you have to enter just to answer a phone call. So try the thumbprint recognition. Some phones are now offering facial recognition (although not everybody agrees that’s more secure).

The point is, you don’t want someone who steals your phone to be able to go on a buying spree with it.

5. Be Wary of WiFi Hotspots

I know you wouldn’t check your trading accounts over the local Starbucks’ WiFi. So don’t conduct financial transactions of any kind over WiFi, such as logging into bank accounts or making purchases. They just aren’t secure.

6. Be Wary of Deals

You know that old saying about “if it sound too good to be true…” That goes for wonderful-sounding deals you get via email or via a social media ‘friend’. These can be phishing attempts.

At the very least, don’t open the attachments or click on the links from these sites. Use a known or Googled URL to the company first. If it’s a legit deal, you should be able to find it advertised on their legitimate site.

Even innocuous-looking e-cards can harbor viruses. Make sure they are from one of the big-name e-card companies before opening.

7. Check the Seller’s Reputation

Before buying from a new seller, check the reviews. This isn’t just about checking up on the quality of the product, it’s also checking up on the reputation of the seller. Look to see how easy they are to deal with when problems arise.

The FTC even recommends confirming a new seller’s address and phone. And, of course, make sure their website URL starts with HTTPS (“s” for secure).

8. Use a Payment Service

For smaller retailers, especially (i.e., not Amazon or Lands End types), use Paypal or a similar service. You can still have Paypal charge your credit card, but you aren’t giving that information directly to the seller.

9. Keep Thorough Records and Check Often

Download or print receipts for anything you buy online. Save all email communication between you and the seller.

Check your credit card activity online often. Once a month is a bare minimum.

If you’re using Paypal, record the seller’s name if it’s different from the product and the connection isn’t obvious. This is especially likely to happen if you’re buying software. You’ll save yourself a lot of aggravation later by noting what’s going to appear on your credit statement.

10. Report Suspected Fraud Immediately

In the event something bad does happen, the sooner you report it, the better.

The good news is, if you are the victim of fraud, your liability is limited to $50 by the Fair Credit Billing Act. The better news is that some cards offer no liability if you report it in a timely manner. (See your card’s disclosures for details.)


If you’re a trader, you’re already spending a lot of time online. I know you’ll want that time to be as secure as possible, whether you’re buying stock or buying that new gotta-have.

If you’ve spotted any holes in your online security umbrella here, get them fixed soon. And stay safe!

There are more trading computer tips like this in our buyers guide. Check out our “How To Buy a Trading Computer” e-book.

We hope today’s Quick Tip helped you. If you found this helpful, you’ll want to check out the other computer How-To’s I’ve created on this page. You can always call us if you have questions: 800-387-5250