Helping you balance your online life

Jan 30th


The Age of Data Breaches Part 2: Shop Safe Online & Off

Help yourself avoid the stress and cost of identity theft by making smart choices when shopping online or at a store. In Part One of The Age of Data Breaches, we offered some general ways to keep your data safe on your devices. Now, we'll share some tips on how to make safe shopping decisions. Follow these suggestions whether you're wandering the mall or surfing your favorite designer's online shop and help keep your data out of hackers' hands.

Internet crime and electronic banking security

Five safe ways to shop online and in stores:

1.Pay with credit cards (or even cash) rather than debit cards
Use credit cards when shopping online, as most credit card companies have protection programs that your debit card may not. If you're shopping at a brick and mortar store, you can always opt to make your purchases using cash to avoid your credit card being tracked or experiencing potential data breaches.

2.Only shop on secure sites
When shopping online, make sure you are visiting a trusted, legitimate merchant. The easiest way to tell you're shopping on a secure site is that the web address starts with HTTPS:// rather than HTTP://. You'll often see a padlock icon appear in the browser address bar or the bottom of the window. When using your credit card online, SafeCentral can help protect you from identity theft and protect your details when banking online.

3.Monitor your bank account regularly
Monitoring your bank account should go without saying. It's important to keep track of your purchase history and, if you haven't already, set up access to your credit card and bank account online. By monitoring your transaction history regularly, you'll be able to see what purchases were made and if there are any unauthorized transactions.

4.When shopping at retail stores, don't give out your phone number, email address or zip code when asked
It probably seems like every time you shop at a major retailer the sales associate asks for your phone number, email address or zip code. Don't automatically assume this information is necessary to make your purchase. Companies use your phone number, email address and zip code to create a profile of you in order to market more directly and aggressively to you. You always have the option of saying "no" when asked and thus placing an extra layer of security between you and a possible retail data breach in the future. You can also download a privacy protection plan like MyPrivacy which wipes your salary, address & phone from websites which helps protect your personal life from marketers, scammers & thieves.

5. Trust your instincts
Last but not least, always listen to your instincts when shopping. If you're on a site that doesn't look professional, has a ton of pop-ups, is asking for way too much information about you, has a wonky URL or just doesn't "feel" right, then it's best to quit the transaction and exit the site.

AOL offers an array of safety and security packages to help ensure your identity stays just that...your identity. If you have an AOL membership and want to learn about what security features your plan has to offer, please visit To learn more about AOL's membership security plans, visit