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Kenneth Van Wyk: 'Tis the season to shop with care

With online holiday shopping on the rise, and mobile-device shopping coming into its own, the need to be aware of the necessary security precautions has grown

By Kenneth van Wyk
December 3, 2012 11:16 AM ET

Computerworld - With online holiday shopping on the rise, and mobile-device shopping coming into its own, the need to be aware of the necessary security precautions has grown.

With the 2012 holiday shopping season well under way, it's already evident that online shopping is on a record-setting pace this year, and mobile devices have had a huge impact. Every year, people have questions about the sorts of security precautions they should take when shopping online, and there will probably be even more questions now that mobile has entered the picture in a big way.

That's good; people need to be conscious of the need to take certain precautions online, just as they are aware that they shouldn't go into a physical shopping mall with hundred-dollar bills sticking out of their pockets and handbags. Personally, my awareness is heightened because I've had two credit cards defrauded this year. Did that happen as a result of my online or my on-site payment activity? I suspect that it was on-site, but I'll never know for sure. In any event, I hope my misfortune can help you avoid something similar.

Here are some pointers.

* Always opt for the payment method that's safest. Many sites these days support PayPal, Google or other payment services. When they do, use them and minimize the number of merchants that have access to your more sensitive payment details.

* Keep a secure log of all the sites on which you divulge your payment information.

* When given the choice, opt to not store your payment information with the vendor. It will be a bit of a hassle to have to re-enter your payment information every time you go back to buy something on that same site, but it's nothing compared to the hassle of having your payment card information stolen. Try to minimize your payment footprint.

* If you register with an online vendor, use a strong and unique password -- not one that you've already used on other sites. A lot of people will probably skip right over this bit of advice on the grounds that they think it isn't feasible to use a different password for every site. Don't be one of those people. To help with this, you have at least two options: either keep a secure log, on paper, of your usernames and passwords for each site, or use a password vault application to do that for you. I've been using such an app for years. It's easy to manage, and I am confident that my passwords for sites that have my payment information won't be easily cracked.



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