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Computer Privacy Annoyances by Dan Tynan

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ONLINE SHOPPING

Give Credit Where Credit is Due...

The Annoyance:

The idea of typing my credit card number onto a web page gives me the willies. I feel like I’m inviting people to rip me off.

The Fix:

It shouldn’t. Though e-commerce sites do occasionally get hacked (and shady sites might steal your data, see Table 3-2), using a credit card actually offers you some protection if you get ripped off. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, if someone steals your credit card information to make purchases, you’re only liable for $50 of the total—even then, many banks and merchants will credit the entire amount when online fraud is involved, provided you catch the mistake in time.

But you’ll want to make sure the site is legitimate (see Table 3-2) and that it uses Secure Socket Layer encryption to protect your credit info as it zips through cyberspace. Even then, you’ll need to monitor your account carefully to make sure nobody’s “cramming” your card—adding bogus extra charges to the account. Most banks put a limit (like a couple of months) on how long after the initial purchase you can dispute a charge, so examine your monthly statements or check your account more often online. An alternative is to get a separate credit card with a low limit and use it exclusively for online purchases. If crammers do max out the account, you’ll be less exposed.

Whatever you do, don’t ever send a check or cash to a web site, unless you don’t care about losing money. (And if that’s how you feel, could you send ...

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