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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

How to protect your personal data online



Almost everywhere you go on the Internet these days, you are asked to share personal information. Want to qualify for a special offer? Submit your name, address and e-mail. A free trial of security software? Credit card, please.

Unfortunately, we have become only too eager to comply with the requests. People who are reluctant to give a store checkout clerk their zip code will happily surrender sensitive personal data after spending just a few minutes on an unknown web site.

The result? At best, yet more spam clogging up the Inbox; at worst, a serious case of identity theft.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. By following a few golden rules and paying attention to certain tell-tale signs on every web site, we can protect our personal information and greatly reduce the possibility of fraud.

  • Only do business with credible companies. Make sure the web site you are dealing with is backed by an established organization with a trustworthy reputation. Check that there is a customer support page with legitimate contact information.
  • Before submitting your name, e-mail or other personal information, look for the web site’s privacy policy. How will the site use your information and will they share it with other organizations? If you do decide to submit personal data, make sure you uncheck the options to receive offers from partners or other third parties.
  • Look for evidence that your information is being encrypted, so it can only be read by the intended recipient. Secure sites usually have web addresses that begin with “https” rather than the usual “http” and display a lock icon on the right-hand site of the address bar.
  • Establish an alternative e-mail address for online submissions. Protect your primary e-mail account from spam by using an alternative address. If the e-mail address is compromised or you start receiving a lot of spam, close it down and open another one.
  • Avoid using debit cards for online purchases. Credit cards offer some protection against identity theft and can limit your financial exposure in a fraudulent transaction. On the other hand, debit cards give an attacker immediate access to a bank account and all the available funds.
  • Devote one credit card to online purchases. Consider using just one credit card for online use and agree a strict limit with the issuing bank.
  • Vary passwords and do not allow them to be stored on web sites. The use of a universal password for multiple online accounts can leave you particularly vulnerable to fraud. Plus, allowing a web site to store your password offers no protection should someone hack into that account or have access to your computer.


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