Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How to Know if You Can Trust a Site With Your Personal Info

Yes, the web has provided us with the ultimate convenience in shopping, banking, and practically anything else you can think of. But when it comes to such personal data such as credit card information or your social security number, what sites can you really trust? With the increasing numbers of identity theft and fraud, scammers are having a field day with innocent consumers. It’s no surprise, since any criminal can start a free web page (URL: ) and attempt to pass it off as secure and authentic to unknowing viewers. That’s why you should think twice before entering such precious info because the circumstances can be disastrous.

First, minimize security problems by sharing info on sites you know and trust, or ones that have been recommended by confident friends and family. You simply can’t tell by the looks of the website if it is reliable or trustworthy. Try to stick with well-known and reputable companies. Also be cautious of merchants who don’t list any other contact information. You can check outside agencies such as the Better Business Bureau to see what complaints the online merchant could have. After you think you have found a site that is trustworthy, find out if the web page is secured. When a web page is secured, it provides an encrypted transfer of info from your computer to the website, and the info cannot be read while it’s being sent. A secure site possesses an SSL certificate. Here’s how to tell if the page is secure.

Look for Https
Check out the URL or web page address, usually in the top of your web browser. Most addresses begin with “http” but secure connections display “https” instead. The “https” should not only be on pages where you enter your credit card info on shopping sites but also on pages where you type in usernames and passwords, such as your bank website or website where you go to check your email.

Examine the “Lock”
While on a secure page, your web browser should display an icon that looks like a padlock on the lower left or lower right corner, depending on your browser. Hover over it with your mouse or click it to verify the security information. Beware that some sites will try to trick you by simply replicating a padlock on the bottom of their webpage, making you think that what you are looking at is indeed your browser. Just remember to be familiar with your browser so you can spot fake locks.

Check the Properties
You can check if a page has an SSL certificate by going through your browser’s Properties menu. In the properties menu, select the Certificates option and see if an SSL certificate is present.

These are the main features to check to see whether a site is secured. For pages displaying a VeriSign SSL certificate symbol, use VeriSign’s “Verify Before you Buy Search Box” on their official website to make sure the seal is valid or if it’s being used with authorization. You simply copy and paste the site’s URL from your web browser and click “verify.” You can even download a “Verify Before You Buy” widget for your browser to make it even easier.

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