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If you are online many hours a day, consider installing a firewall on your computer. You would be surprised at the protection it provides to the valuable information stored on your computer. A firewall is a "must have" for those using cable modems or DSL connections since these are considered always on.
Many people shopping on the Internet are afraid of submitting personal information for a purchase, only to end up on a number of mailing lists.
Please use caution when releasing personal information. Keep in mind the type of company you are dealing with and use common sense to determine relevant information to provide.
If you are registering with a retail store you should expect to provide your correct name, address, phone number, a username, password, date of birth, and e-mail address. You might be asked for buying preferences but that is optional normally.
If you are completing a purchase then you should expect to provide payment information.
A store should not request your Social Security information. That's not necessary and signals a red flag if they do.
The only time you really should be providing your Social Security information is for applications for credit, banking, jobs, retirement benefits, brokers, etc.
When shopping online, always look for a statement from the website that says you are being transferred to our secure server prior to submitting your personal information such as name, address, phone number, and payment information.
To verify that you are on a secure website, look for a "locked padlock" to appear in the lower right-hand corner of your window.
If you're looking for an effective firewall for your computer, I would recommend 2 different ones.
ZoneAlarm by ZoneLabs is an excellent firewall and is a FREE download for individuals. I had some difficulty when I tried it using AOL, however it does rate highly in a recent PC World review.
Another firewall that is equally effective as ZoneAlarm if not more is BlackICE Defender. This one costs around $40 but is well worth it. You can download it from the manufacturer's website or you can purchase the software at various computer stores. I have tested this one and it's fantastic. It also received a high rating from PC World.