Saturday, February 28, 2009

Safer Online Shopping While Avoiding Identity Theft


A Little Diversion is Good For The Soul

Hello online shopping fans! We have something a little different for you today, but as ardent online shoppers, I believe it is something that will interest you and be helpful. We're thinking of making several (shopping-related) diversions like this over the course of this year, so your feedback would be appreciated about that. Good idea? Or do you need to slap us back into place? We'll wait quietly
over here, and hope to hear from you.

The Buzz About Identity Theft

There is a lot of buzz these days about online shopping and social media networking and the risks involved with both for identity theft. Our friends over at recently posted a blog about identity theft and Julio Ricardo Varela, a Facebook friend, posted this story. In addition to these examples, the news about online shopping, identity theft, and social media risks have been plentiful lately, so we won't detail them much further here. The last things we'll offer are Dateline's "To Catch an ID Thief" undercover investigation, which included an online store and some resulting tips on protecting yourself, including this helpful guide. Check it out when you have a chance.

So, What's YOUR Social Security Number?

We've posted before about ways to ensure
safe online shopping (courtesy of Tech Paul), but a newsletter we received recently from LifeLock (we're members), and a link to their blog, jogged me into writing and asking if they would write a post for ShopWorthy readers.

I thought I'd get a response weeks or months later, or never.

Within an hour or so, I got a reply from
Cortney Read, Public Affairs Coordinator for LifeLock, with an enthusiastic "Yes" reply and a friendly, professional message. Within a few days, I received the post below, from Cortney, which is written by Zach Friesen. Hats off to you, LifeLock (and especially Cortney and Zach). I am indeed impressed.

Disclosures, Disclaimers, The Other Side of the Coin

Now, we're not the
Motley Fool, and we do not own shares of LifeLock (and don't even know if they're publicly traded) or get anything in return for mentioning them here, but we should offer a few other "disclosures."

First, we are customers of theirs. About 20 months ago, when we moved to a new city, we opened a new bank account and had to prove that one of our social security numbers was ours, because it had been in use at that bank previously, on a closed account, by someone else. It appeared that it was possibly an honest mistake(?) on the part of the account owner but the fact that it slipped past the bank was astonishing to us. We had been seeing the bold commercials for LifeLock where the CEO,
Todd Davis, posts his social security number in magazines and on the side of a truck. After some research, we became customers to protect ourselves.

It does make getting credit somewhat more challenging, but with some advance planning it's not really a problem. There's a phone call involved between LifeLock and you to ensure it's you applying for credit. Not really a hassle for us, to know that our identity and credit are being protected.

Lastly, I've read that detractors say that placing fraud alerts on your credit bureau as a protective measure can slow down the entire system that is designed to protect those most at risk. Personally, I reconcile this easily, given the amount of identity theft that happens. Of course, given our story, I considered our risk high to begin with. Other detractors take issue with the CEO giving out his social security number, citing it as irresponsible. I can't speak to that, other than to say it was a bold and highly effective marketing campaign, and I have a hard time imagining that others would do it because he did, but you never know.
The FBI sees fit to work with them, and Google's CFO sits on their Board of Directors, so that says a lot, from our perspective.

So with all that said, I would like to turn over the floor to LifeLock and author Zach Friesen.


Advice from the Experts
- Avoid Identity Theft While Shopping Online

Written By Zach Friesen,
Edited by Mike Kunkle,
DreamWorthy Gifts

Online shopping can be a lot of fun and lead to some great savings, but some people shy away for fear of the unknown. We've all heard stories of people who go to buy a gift or a hard-to-find item online and end up with a load of fraud and scams - but what's the truth behind the risks of online shopping? In this day and age, online shopping really is the best way to find just what you need, and despite the rumors, there are a number of ways to ensure a safe and happy experience.

Making a List (of Risks)

First, it's important to recognize just what kinds of identity theft you are at risk for when buying online. In general, identity theft is when someone obtains your personal information to use the credit you already have or to establish new credit. In addition, sometimes thieves attempt to use your information to get at your money instead of your credit. While identity theft has branched out into many different areas, these are the most pertinent to online shopping. (For more info on other types of identity theft, feel free to visit

Checking It Twice (Bills and Credit Reports)

The next step for consumers is to know how to check to learn if they already are a victim and continue this process to spot potential problems early. This is as simple as reviewing a credit report annually and carefully checking all the bills and credit statements you receive monthly. Looking at these documents, make sure there is nothing on them that you don't recognize (for example, a credit card you've never opened with a retailer or bank, or purchases that you did not authorize). If you see anything you are uncomfortable with, or simply want to ensure that you're protected, you can visit
LifeLock's website to learn more about checking your credit report and how experts can help you keep your identity safe.

Find Out Who's Naughty or Nice

Next, you need to be sure you know who you're dealing with, when shopping. There are some relatively easy and simple steps to ensure you're "where you think you are." A good rule to follow is: always find your sites, email addresses, and phone numbers yourself. If someone contacts you in an email or otherwise tells you where to go or what number to call, you should consider it suspect. You have no idea who you're dealing with, unless you verify the information or contact them another way. This is not to say that you cannot ever communicate using these means, just operate responsibly and never offer personal information without doing some of your own research. For example, many identity thieves will fabricate websites and provide links to you, in hopes of convincing you to give up information. Be cautious of this and look up the site yourself, using whatever search engine you prefer. It's also a good idea to check the URL to make sure the title and site match.

Finally, ensuring that you're dealing with secure sites can alleviate the fear of someone intercepting the transaction. While there are multiple ways to verify a secure site, the simplest and fastest is to check the URL again. If the site starts with "http" it is not secure, and "https" is secure.

Gauge Your Comfort - Decide What's Next

Remember, there is much that you can do for yourself to stay safe when shopping online, but there is still a lot that can happen - both on and off the Internet - that is out of your control. For additional help keeping you and your loved ones safe from identity theft, check out You'll find experts that offer not only protection, but also a million-dollar safety net to catch you, just in case the worst should happen.


One last note. LifeLock has their own
blog. Check them out at

And with that said, faithful readers (Hi Mom!), we'll wrap up this
ShopWorthy post for now. Thanks for reading, and as always, happy shopping!

Until next time,

Your friends and Shopping Advisors at
DreamWorthy Gifts

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