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Would you give a merchant your Social Security number?

More than half of online shoppers say they've purchased from sites whose security seemed questionable, and most said they would provide personal data not normally needed for a transaction.

By Dec 10, 2013 11:59AM

This post comes from Bob Sullivan at partner site on MSN MoneyOnline shopping growth continues to defy gravity, with an estimated $1.7 billion spent on Cyber Monday last week -- an 18 percent jump from 2012. And why not? Digital shoppers beat the crowds, never fight for parking, usually get the best prices and often escape sales tax.

Personal Information, Social Security Number, and Security © Fuse/Fuse/Getty ImagesBut if you're going to be online shopping this holiday, that means you're going to be slinging your data all around the Internet. You should understand the risks. It feels like every day, another major data breach is announced, with word of 2 million Facebook passwords being stolen just the latest bad news.

While making a calculated risk to shop online is fine, many consumers still don't take simple common-sense precautions when using the Web, a new survey has found.

More than half said they would provide personal information that is not typically needed to complete a transaction, like a Social Security number, mother’s maiden name or birth date, according to a survey by Identity Theft 911.

The research -- a telephone poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by market research firm gFk -- also found that shoppers aren't trusting their gut when making choices about sharing data.


Slightly more than half told researchers that they'd purchased something online from a site that they felt "was not secure." And though 82% of online shoppers said they were very concerned about identity theft, 60% said they didn't scan their credit card bills more carefully during the holiday season.

I’m not bashing online shopping; far from it. The benefits of online shopping, on the whole, outweigh the risks. In fact, using your credit card at a retail store or giving it to someone on the phone is at least as risky as using it online, if not more.  Most retail stores will take your data and put it on a server that's connected to the Internet anyway, and might broadcast it over wireless networks, too. 

5 online shopping security tips

Fraud risks shouldn't scare you away from online shopping. But just as you shouldn't leave your purse or iPhone on the front seat of your car when you park at the mall, there's several thing you can do to lower the odds that a Grinch might steal your holiday spirit and your identity.

  1. Check those credit card bills carefully. Yours may be an extra page or two come January due to your holiday splurges, and criminals hope you might miss the fraud in the crowd.
  2. With packages flying all around the planet, you are bound to have emails from delivery services with exciting news -- "Your package has been delivered!" Boy, they are fun to click. That makes this time of year a playground for phishers, who can easily spoof those emails and trick you into clicking on a link to a booby-trapped website. Here's the rule: "Pause before you click," especially on a link in an e-mail -- even if you are expecting a package.
  3. The same rule holds true for e-greeting cards. Sorry to be so Scrooge-like, but I've just given up on them, there's so many booby trapped cards floating around. Send me a real holiday card, please!
  4. In a moment of good cheer, you might decide to be generous and make a donation at a charity's website. Good for you. But stick to sites with names you know, and always type the charity's website name into the address field of your browser manually. (Don't follow a link in an email or a website). That's the best way to ensure you end up in the right place.
  5. Most important: If you get that familiar "queasy, something’s-not-right" feeling when you are about to enter your credit card, LISTEN TO IT! You are probably right, and something is probably wrong. Pick up the phone and call the retailer to confirm it's legit. Searching for the company's name and "scam" or "complaint" is also a pretty good way to see if a website has a bad reputation.

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Dec 11, 2013 5:52AM

This type of thing is why:


I never click on attachments from sites/people I do not know

I never give more info than is needed to complete a transaction (name, address, cc info)

I have a SINGLE credit card I useonly for ALL online transactions

No they only get card # and shipping address, and they sell that info, are they now catering to the ID theft rings by selling your SS# also.
Dec 15, 2013 2:34PM
Beware when a merchant ask for your Social Security Number.  What reason would they want your number?  I also had an restaurant wanting to copy my credit card.  But when I finish expressing myself about that, my meal was free???  Wonder how many people they snatched a copy???  Wake up people keep an eye on your life surrounding of crazy folks...
Dec 15, 2013 3:18PM
What kind of crazy would give up their personal info to make a purchase? Ewwww...that's scary to know some people really are that stupid. A clerk once asked to see my driver's license at a Goodwill store, just because I wanted to return an $8 item. What's up with that? I asked why she needed to know who I am, and, she replied in all seriousness....."we don't need to know who you are...just your driver's license number". Huh? Last time I checked, my driver's license number identified, exactly, who I am. I told her to keep the item, and, forget the refund. I should have SOME privacy; shouldn't I?
Dec 10, 2013 1:54PM
Dec 16, 2013 1:34AM
No…nor to an insurance company…but, I'd better quit while I'm behind.  I've got to get packing, for Gitmo.
Dec 15, 2013 9:14PM
this is why i only shop at sites that accept paypal.
Dec 15, 2013 8:50PM
Hey, my credit score is less than 150...A crook would be embarrassed to try and use my identity.
Dec 15, 2013 11:30AM
Dec 16, 2013 3:47AM
Dec 16, 2013 12:24AM
i would never give a merchant my ss number, none of thier bussiness, they arent the law nor are they the credit  comapny if i pay cash  they dont   need it  even if i used my credit cards,, they dont need it,,all ineed is some kid who needs money opening a account in my name so he can have fun,  worse case if they wont let me shop there  ? i guess it is time for stealing my stuff then send them  the cash and a pictre of what i needed
Dec 15, 2013 9:38PM
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