Q: I want to apply for a credit card but feel uncomfortable entering my social security number online. Is there a way to check the security of the application?

A: This is a great question and we applaud you for your caution; it is always important to be aware when entering personal information online. In general, financial institutions that host these online applications use top-tier security measures like SSL encryption to make sure that your data, for example your social security number, is secure.

Whenever you are unsure whether the site you are using to enter personal information is secure or not, there are a couple of things you can look out for:
1. Most browsers, including Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer, just to name a few you may be familiar with, now include a color-change on the left side of the address bar to show that the site has been verified as legitimate. For example, Chrome highlights the first part of the URL in green and surrounds it with a little green box.
2. Still looking at the left side of the address bar, check for a little lock sign on most browsers, which indicates that the webpage is secure.
3. Check the URL for 'HTTPS' at the beginning, which is much more secure than a 'HTTP' URL.

Want to take extra precautions when entering personal information online? Many Internet security software suites are offering a feature that spotlights a "secure environment." For example, the top-rated BitDefender's SafePay feature opens browsers in a secluded environment where you can enter private information worry-free. Many Internet security software suites also offer a feature that checks the reliability of sites you are using. Compare the top Internet security software suites here.

If you are worried about someone stealing your social security number, or are already a victim of identity fraud, consider signing up for an identity theft protection service, which monitors public records and the Internet's black markets for use of your social security number and changes in your credit report. Many of these services also offer Internet security software included in the plan. Read all of our identity theft protection reviews here.

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