Databases are a potential goldmine for identity thieves, and there's not much you as a consumer can do about it. Once your personal name is in a database, you have very little say over how that data is handled. The challenge, therefore, is to be careful about who has your data.
- Know who you're dealing with! Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet unless you yourself have initiated the contact and you know the person or organization. Before you share any personal information, confirm that you are dealing with a legitimate entity.
- Where possible, chose to deal with larger, well-known businesses that have a solid reputation. If you have a choice between buying something through Newegg versus "Joe's Cheap Tech Toys"...well, you get the idea. (Disclaimer: I have no connection to Newegg. This is not an endorsement, just an example.)
- Many sites that process online sales have the option for you to store your credit/purchasing information. This feature is supposedly intended for customer convenience. Unfortunately, it means that your purchasing information gets stored in their big central database, along with all your personal information. Where possible, choose not to have this information stored with your account. It may be a pain to type in your credit card number for each purchase, but it's just a tiny bit safer.
- If you're unsure about the business or the security of a website, call the company and make your purchase over the phone. This doesn't keep you out of the company database, but hopefully that database is to some small extent removed from the internet. This purchasing method also bypasses illegitimate or insecure websites that may expose your information.