10/17/2014 09:31 am ET Updated Dec 17, 2014

The Global Shopping Mall That Is the Internet

You'd be hard pressed to find someone -- anyone -- who hasn't purchased something online. It is the pinnacle of convenience, the Jetson approach to spending money, and it is global. But the path that our almighty dollars take from our bank accounts to retailers and even vendors is fraught with obstacles and dangers. When your credit card number looks like Red Riding Hood avoiding wolves in the virtual forest, it's not hard to imagine why so many thefts happen online. So what are the pitfalls of trading your Benjamins for merchandise online?

Money makes the world go around. That's a saying that my dad always brings up when I see him, and he has yet to be wrong about the world, at least financially. So when the Internet became mainstream, retailers eyes began to water as the watched their sales horizons light up like sunrise in the desert. Finally, a new and bigger way to sell things without having to rely solely on late night TV commercials or mail order flyers and catalogs. The Internet quickly became the new way to buy things worldwide.

The first hitch was the use of credit cards. We all know what happened with retailers like Target and Home Depot. Credit card info was easily hacked and spread throughout the Internet like dollar bills on a windy highway. It was painful. And then we started learning about website breeches -- security systems that were hacked, allowing the online gates to open up for thieves to take whatever credit card and personal info they wanted. These online breeches made Target look like a lemonade stand robbery. We're talking hundreds of millions of bytes of personal data stolen.

So now we have other means at our disposal, like Paypal. These online payment services play a role in hiding your personal info, or at least making your info anonymous to would be thieves. They seem to work, and I admit to using Paypal myself. But they are still web based, and theoretically still hack-able. Other services like @Pay utilize your email as a way to make payments. This is a novel solution which answers the question of having to log onto a separate website to pay for something, but brings up the issue of email hackers.

The bigger picture shows us that online payment will only grow in the coming years. As technologies advance, so will the efforts of online thieves who are chomping at the bit for a shot at your personal wealth. The danger of spending a dollar online is deceptive because the process is so easy. With billions of dollars at stake worldwide, the web is becoming the ideal hang out for crooks and hackers alike.

Think about your next online purchase, and how your money is changing hands. Use varying passwords when possible, and avoid saving personal credit card data on websites. As easy as it is to spend money (and we all generally like buying things) it is becoming as easy for hackers to take what they want from our bank accounts.

I used to worry about pick pockets. Who would have thought that they would make their way online?