January 6, 2011, 10:58 AM

The European Union urges online shoppers to be on guard

The latest report from the EU’s security agency warns against fake web sites.

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Online shoppers should set up electronic transaction limits on their payment cards, check accounts after making online payments and make sure e-commerce sites are legitimate, advises a European Union agency in a new report  about safe web transactions.

Written by the European Network and Information Security Agency, “How to Shop Safely Online” is directed at consumers, not online retailers. As is often the case for such papers from the European Union, the document contains only guidelines, not binding rules.

“Just as the online shopping environment provides the consumer and retailer with many benefits, it also provides criminals with the opportunities to defraud unsuspecting consumers and retailers, to steal money and to steal financial and personal data,” the report notes.

Among the strongest pieces of advice for online shoppers: Know thy retailer.

That means more than just making sure not to give out payment information to criminals who construct web sites that resemble those operated by legitimate e-commerce operators. Consumers must review the online retailers’ terms and conditions, including warranty information, says the report.

The European agency also urges consumers to make their passwords unique and strong—instead of, say, using a birthday or name for identification—and to provide only the minimum personal information required.

The paper encourages online shoppers to use temporary payment methods, though the agency did not define that term. Such methods can include gift cards redeemable online.

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