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Festive Shopping

Festive Shopping by Richard Collinson, on Flickr

Don’t hit the panic button just yet. There are still a few weeks to find presents for your loved ones. Thanks to online shopping, the process for healthcare travelers is so much easier than going to various stores, wrapping the items, sending them out to family and friends, and hoping they arrive in time for Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa.

However, anytime you buy something online, whether away on assignment or from the comfort of home, there are a few precautions to follow to protect your identity and hard-earned traveler’s salary. Here are a few tips from the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (www.privacyrights.org).

1. Security Clearance: Before browsing through a site’s inventory, take a look at its Internet address. It should have “https://” at the beginning, a closed padlock, or an unbroken key, all of which signals a secured system. Sometimes, though, these indicators do not pop up until you on are the ordering page.

2. The Fine Print: How many times have you robotically clicked “agree” when prompted to read terms and conditions? No matter how laborious, it’s a good idea to read the privacy policy portion because it’s where you find out if the business shares your data with other organizations—not a good idea.

Also, see if the data, especially your credit card numbers, are stored as encrypted files. This means they are always scrambled and only authorized personnel can descramble them.

3. Contact Credentials: Look for the business’s physical mailing address and phone number, and give it a call to confirm everything’s legit.

4. Point of No Return? Check out how the retailer handles returns. Who pays for the shipping to send back the product? Do you get a refund on your credit card or only store credit?

5. Charge It: Never, ever—repeat: never, ever—give out checking account or debit card numbers. Also, never use a money transfer system like Western Union. These could give hackers direct access to your accounts, and most banks do not guarantee refunding unauthorized purchases. Credit card companies offer better protection.

Have you heard about single-use credit cards? Apparently they are virtual and generate a random account number in place of your actual number. One drawback is that they are store specific. Once you use it to buy from a website, that virtual card is forever linked to that merchant and cannot be used elsewhere. Inquire with your credit card company to see if it offers this service.

6. Hard Copies: Either save or print all receipts or email confirmations just in case.

Happy (Safe) Holiday Shopping!

 

Anne Baye Ericksen is a professional writer who has contributed to Healthcare Traveler since 1996. She resides with her family in Simi Valley, Calif.

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