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Internet Information Safety

Tuesday, November 16th, 2004 by | Filed Under: Using The Internet
 
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Internet Information Safety

Giving out your personal information to sites on the net is a touchy subject. My suggestion would be to only give out info to sites that you trust. If you don’t trust a particular site, don’t give out your info. I’m not too worried about giving out my info to most business sites, but I’m not going to give it to someone who just would like to have it in order to see where their visitors are coming from.

Note that most good, reputable sites will have some sort of privacy policy that tells you exactly how the information you give them will be used. If you’re at all unsure, it may be worth reading the privacy policy for the site in question. If you can’t find one, any paranoia you have regarding that site is probably justified.

Most sites that ask for your personal information are doing so because you’re signing up for something or making some type of purchase. After all, how can you buy something online if you won’t give out your address and credit card info? When this is the case, I carefully look through the site to make sure it looks OK (I check for stuff like contact info, addresses, etc.) before I give out my any of my information.

If a site is asking for a credit card number, they will only get it if I’m actually making a purchase. If it’s for any other reason, forget it. If they are trying to get my social security number, they don’t have a chance unless I see good reason for them to have it (applying for a loan, joining an affiliate program, etc.)

Oh, one more thing since we mentioned credit cards. I get a lot of people who are worried about sending their credit card info to a company via the internet. As long as the site is secure (you should see a little “lock” in the Status Bar of your browser – lower left hand corner), you should be safe.

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Of course, you have to trust the company you’re dealing with. If you give your card to a site that’s shady (porn, illegal items, etc), then you shouldn’t be too surprised if you run into problems.

On the other hand, if you’re dealing with a good, legit site, then you shouldn’t have any problems. However, remember, not all companies are the same – before you give any site your credit card info, be sure they have stuff like contact information, a privacy policy, and you may want to check their return policy, too (assuming it applies). Doesn’t hurt to do a little homework.

For the most part, it seems like credit card theft on the internet is more likely the result of having a dishonest employee (and that’s not just an internet problem), than the transmission getting intercepted. It just kills me when I see people who won’t use their card online, but they don’t hesitate to pass it to any scummy looking store clerk, never giving it a second thought. In my opinion, you’re usually as safe, if not more so, online.

I guess the best advice is to be careful. If you don’t have a good reason to give out your info, then don’t. If you don’t feel comfortable with a site or don’t completely understand why they need your info, then don’t give it out.

A good resource for more information is the Identity Theft Protector software.

~ Steve

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