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Privacy and Security

Many users of online vendors (and web sites in general) have become increasingly concerned about the privacy and security of the information they submit on the Web. There's good reason for this in general, though to be honest, the concerns have been somewhat overplayed in the media. Most online vendors are pretty good when it comes to protecting the privacy and security of their customers. The reason is a simple one: if they don't they will ultimately pay the price, through unhappy customers, and as a result, lost sales.

If you are especially concerned about privacy issues, it's a good idea to check the Web site of a vendor before you use them, to determine what the company's policies are regarding the use of personal information. In particular, you will want to use vendors that promise not to resell or otherwise transmit your personal data to other companies.

It's reasonable to ask a company what their procedures are for safeguarding credit card information. You should know that there have been incidents where credit card information has been divulged by online vendors who were not managing the data properly. I had this happen to me, and had to have one of my credit cards cancelled and reissued. It's rare, but it does happen. I personally would not consider this sufficient reason not to use the Web for ordering, or not to use credit cards. (After all, it's also far from unheard of for credit card numbers to be stolen in brick-and-mortar stores, or restaurants. The only way to guarantee that nobody unauthorized gets their hands on your credit card numbers is to not use your credit cards.)

Tip: A good idea that my wife and I now employ since the incident mentioned above, is a dedicated credit card for online use. We use that credit card number for online purchases, and no other. If there are any problems related to that card, at least it will not affect the other cards we use.

Next: Guarantees and Return Policies

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