Published 29 September 2011 by Daniel Culpan
These days, as increasing numbers of us choose to shop online, we're potentially just a click away from sharing personal and sensitive information with others who may want to take advantage of them!
Whether we're buying concert tickets or DVDs, bidding for items in online auctions, or using internet banking, many of us choose to give away confidential information about our finances and personal identity to online businesses without much thought.
But are we really as safe when shopping online as we think? Some recent news stories suggest otherwise. Earlier this year, two London university students were jailed for 10 months after buying stolen credit card details online - which they then used to carry out fraudulent transactions. One of the offenders even used some of the money for the loan of a BMW 3-series!
Furthermore, the UK Cards Association revealed that, in 2010, 36.6 million adults - 72% of the UK's adult population - bought goods and services online, while total fraud losses on UK-issued credit and debit cards in the same year totalled a huge £365 million.
In light of the possible risks of sharing your personal details online, here's our guide to avoiding potential pitfalls - and making sure your finances are protected on the internet.
According to the UK Payments Administration, the success of chip and pin technology saw losses on transactions on the high street fall from £218.8 million in 2004 to £72.1 million in 2009.
However, though shopping online is generally safe if you stick with trusted online stores, some websites don't always offer the same level of security you may find on the high street.
Just as some professional criminals choose to operate on the high street, the internet can also be used by people who may not have your best interests in mind. The potential for illegal activity online was revealed recently in the 'LulzSec' case: an online hacker group who managed to steal, and release, confidential documents held by major companies such as Sony and Nintendo - and even the CIA!
Of course, stories like this shouldn't scare us off, but simply highlight the importance of being ultra-aware of what details we provide - and how we provide them - when using the internet.
Yet there are some practical steps you can follow to protect yourself when sharing your financial details over the internet.
As the 'internet generation', much of the shopping we do these days is done in the virtual shopping aisles of the worldwide web.
Whether you're doing your weekly food shopping online, buying a new mobile phone, or getting concert tickets to see your favourite band, shopping online means you could be a click away from getting what you want, whenever you want it. Or not…
Online ticket buyers were warned earlier this year about an internet 'scam' in which criminals used fake websites to lure music fans into paying for concert tickets - which they then never received.
Here are a few security tips you could follow to help stop you falling foul of online 'fraudsters':
It's not just your finances that could be damaged by internet fraud. Spare a thought for the 56-year-old Finnish nurse who had her heart broken - and her bank balance drained to the tune of £17,500 - by a conman from an internet dating website.
The moral of the story? Never trust anyone online whose identity you're unsure about, and never hand your money over to people you don't know and trust.
Shopping online isn't 100% foolproof - any more than the high street is - but if you follow these tips and always stay on your guard, the worst thing you should end up with is a bigger shopping bill than you'd perhaps planned for! (Be warned: online shopping can be really addictive!)
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