when to give out personal information onlineHave you ever wondered why you were being requested to give your personal information to a website? What do they do with your information? DO they keep it safe? In order to help you to answer those questions and more, here are ten tips on internet safety and how to keep your private information truly private.

Do I really have to tell you? — No, you don’t. Most web sites do not need everything they ask for. The compulsory items are usually marked with a star, so fill only those spaces out. You don’t have to be afraid to fudge it a bit; they’ll never know the difference and you’ll be safer. Try not to give personal information to web sites that you don’t absolutely have to.

Your DOB– An exclusion to this rule is the year you were born. While you can fudge on the month and day of your birth, many web sites use the year of your birth to allow access to certain services, and they are often required to do this by law. For this object, it is best to go ahead and put in your precise birth year when signing up on a web site.

Secured with an https – Only send sensitive private details to a web site that is secure. The link (URL) to a secure website begins https://. If the web site’s URL does not have that, then it is not a good idea to send them any private information.

Verify before you trust– Authenticate the security certificate used by a ‘secure’ website. It will not do any good to trust a web site’s security if the certificate and system is expired or outdated. Yes, this does happen, even with well-known companies, so check it out. Some web browsers do this for you routinely; read the warning pop ups and steer clear.

Contact is not just for looks – Check that there is a physical address for contact; this may help if there is a disagreement later on. If there isn’t any way to contact the web site manager, then stay away. What business doesn’t want to hear from customers? That’s right, a bad business. Find someone else to do business with.

Sharing is not always a good thing – If there is a website privacy notice verify how the website uses and shares information about you. You know what I’m talking about; that fine print you check off without actually reading. Yes, take a look at the next one you see and look at what you find. You will be shocked with the privacy you are waving off by clicking ‘continue’.

Do you really trust them? – Only share private information with websites you know you can trust. So, you’ve done numbers 3-6 and you feel okay about the site. Contemplate it a little longer before you click okay. Do you trust the site? Is there a Better Business Bureau tag on it? Do your friends and co-workers use it? Are you still willing to go ahead? Then, by all means, continue.

But why do you need to know? — Because I said so is not an effective reason. Always think about who you are giving your private information to and why they would need it. Don’t be afraid to ask. This relates even to web sites you trust. In the real world, why would you want to give your hairstylist your social security number? You trust them with your hair, but not with that. Why would it be any different online?

There are a few you do not mess with — The government. They are a horse of a different color. Do not fudge on their forms, online or off. Make sure that your computer is secure and then start working your way through the red tape. Any time you are on a government website the URL should end with “.gov”. Verify that the site is real before you input any information. And good luck; you’re going to need it.

Do not talk to strangers – When using computer systems that are not your own, never use data or documents that you would not want left behind unprotected. Why? Because some systems record everything you do- from credit card numbers to home addresses. Don’t take the risk. Save important private information for home or wok, wherever you know it is truly safe and secure.

There are always risks involved when you are dealing with delicate private information online. But you can minimize the risk by using simple, common-sense methods to avoid the majority of security leaks. Never use a computer or web site that you do not trust, and always make sure you are on a secure network when you are dealing with sensitive information.