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The Real Deal: Online Privacy Protection

ALBANY - In light of the recent credit card breaches at Target, Niemen Marcus and the Desmond Hotel, you may be looking for ways to protect yourself a little better when using your credit or debit card to shop online.  Advertisements for services that promise to shield your personal information and protect your credit card number have been popping up all over the internet but are they worth it?
When it comes to what we do on the internet, someone or at least their software is always watching.  Unfortunately, privacy has really become a currency online today because everything you do is tracked and monitored and measured, says Reg Harnish of GreyCastle Security.  But now there are dozens of sites that promise to block your email address, phone number and credit card information from nosy websites that track it and keep it on file.  Basically, you would decide whether you want your real information disclosed or whether youd rather these sites mask it from a particular site.  They do that by providing disposable email addresses or a gift-card type number to use when cashing out online instead of your real credit card number.
"In a lot of cases there are easier ways to achieve the same goal.  Checking out as a guest on online retailers, the idea behind checking out as a guest, is they're not storing your information with that retailer so there's really nothing that can be breached," Harnish says.  Another key piece of advice, "Don't use a debit card, there are far fewer protections for debit cards than there are credit cards."  Harnish says its also a good idea to make sure that your antivirus and firewalls are up to date.  And when youre surfing the web, dont get too far off the main wave, "am I using a reputable online retailer whether it's overstock or amazon or whoever but then also understand the privacy policy, so opting out of some of these things doesn't mean your information is necessarily protected," he says.
The Real Deal?  If you want to remain discreet online, relying on one website that promises to help, probably isnt enough.