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Staying Safe Online While On Campus

By: Larry Goldberg

If you’ve just gotten your first student credit card, you may be opening yourself to new risks as you complete your online shopping experience. Thousands of people are victims to ID theft scams each year, and keeping your new student credit card account out of the statistics can be tough, but these tips may help.


First, before you buy anything online, do a bit of research about the company you’re doing business with. Just because you’ve discovered something that looks like a great sporting goods store doesn’t mean it’s a safe place to offer your credit card number online. Also, make sure the business has mailing address and a telephone number. While these aren’t guarantees of safety, they’re a step in the right direction. Make sure, before you buy anything with your student credit card, that you know exactly what you’ll be getting. If it’s a hard-to-find item, and the photo is a bit grainy, buyer beware. Finally, be sure you’re familiar with all of the involved costs. From the actual price of the item, to the shipping charges, any taxes that are included, and other fees, you need to know exactly what you’ll be paying, who you’ll be paying it to, when it will arrive, and what to do if it doesn’t arrive as you expected it to. You might also want to investigate the returns/complaints policy while you’re doing your research.


When you have determined the store is the right place to buy your item, it’s time to start looking at their level of technology a bit. Don’t do business with a site that doesn’t make use of secure server technology (or SSL encryption). You certainly shouldn’t offer your credit card number over the interent unless you’re at an SSL site. You can tell if you see a little “lock” in the corner of your browser screen or the “http:” in the address changes to an “shttp.” If possible, use a recognized service like PayPal to pay for your purchases.


Another step to protecting your student credit card as you shop online is to look carefully at the privacy policy of the site. Lots of companies out there will sell or share your information with others, and if you have the right to opt out, that may be a good option for you. That means opting out of junk e-mails associated with your purchase as well as bulk mailings.


Your final step to protecting you and your credit card as you shop online is to do a bit of work on the computer itself. Be sure that you clear the temporary interent files and the cookies after you’ve finished a shopping experience. If you’re in a computer lab, it’s a good idea not only to physically log out of the account, but also to log off of the computer as well.


You can protect your new student credit card online, but part of protecting it is being aware of what’s around you. Don’t become your campus’ newest ID theft victim.



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