3. Know who you’re dealing with. Before shopping online with an unknown e-store, check out the seller and be sure to get the name and physical address of the vendor in case something goes wrong. If you’re buying gifts on an online auction site, check the track record of the seller before you bid.
4. Pay the safest way — by credit card, especially when you're purchasing something that will be delivered later. Under federal law you can dispute the charges if you don't get what you were promised. You may also dispute unauthorized charges on your credit card. Consider using a "virtual" credit card number. These numbers replace your plastic credit card number with a new number that is linked to your real account number. When you’re prompted to enter your credit card number at checkout, you enter the virtual number instead of the real number. These "virtual" numbers can be set to have a low credit limit, to only work at certain Web sites, or to expire after a certain period of time (two months from date of purchase is a good rule of thumb).
This way, if the Web site you're shopping at is compromised, the crooks likely won't be able to run up charges on your real credit account since the virtual number. A note of caution, however: think twice before using a virtual credit card number for services where you will be billed repeatedly or for things like rental car reservations, since the card may not be billed until you pick up the car.
5. Only shop on safe sites. When providing payment information, the Web site URL address should change from “http” to “https,” (or, less frequently, “shttp”) indicating that the purchase is encrypted or secured. Look for an icon on the browser (generally in the bottom right of the window), such as an image of a padlock closing, to indicate that the page is secure.