Once upon a time, at the turn of this century, when the commercial internet starting becoming a reality, we had the first opportunity to purchase holiday gifts online. This seemed like a big experiment. Would our orders really get fulfilled? Would the gifts arrive on time? Was it safe to give a credit card and other identifying information on the World Wide Web?
Fast-forward to now. Many billions of dollars of gift transactions are happening on an ongoing basis as the current holiday season is upon us. We have grown accustomed to making online purchases of all types throughout the year, and the holiday season ratchets this up tremendously.
The ease of online holiday purchasing has driven this phenomenal change since the turn of the century, which actually was not that long ago. Rather than wander through stores, wait in line, and lug gifts home, we can simply scroll through our devices, pick out gifts, and magic, they show up at our homes just a couple of days later.
But just because online shopping generally works well does not mean that we should be fully lulled into a complete sense of comfort and safety.
It is important to transact business only with trusted sites. Indeed, it is well-advised only to share personally identifiably information (credit card numbers, addresses, etc.) in a prudent fashion so not to become a victim of identity theft. When identity theft occurs, for example, someone else might start using your credit card numbers to make purchases for someone other than you.
Be careful not to respond to unfamiliar email solicitations in order to prevent someone from “phishing” for your information vitals. If something sounds too good to be true, that likely is the case. Again, use your own initiative to go to the trusted Web sites of your choosing.
Also, be careful to check on packages you are expecting for arrival. Unfortunately, wrongdoers are stealing packages from the doorsteps of intended recipients. They also are reaching into mailboxes and taking the contents. In this way, not only are goods stolen, but they obtain private information within envelopes so that they can engage in identity theft. It is a good idea to have a mailbox that locks for which only you have the key.
And even with trusted sites, let’s hope that they are not subject to successful hack attacks. Such hacks can lead to the revelation of personally identifiable information at times for hundreds and even thousands of customers. Usually when that happens, the hacked company will provide credit monitoring and other services to help.
Fortunately too, when identity theft happens, and your credit card is compromised, usually the card issuer will reverse improper charges and will provide a card with a new number.
Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.