Find out how to shop safer this season with tips for online security
There’s no doubt that having an entire world of goods at our fingertips is convenient and fun. But online shopping with a credit card can expose you to a world of trouble with identity theft and fraud unless you exercise some precautions. Whether you’re ordering your weekly groceries or the perfect present from across the country, it’s important to understand how to play it safe. Stick to these rules and tips to keep your shopping credit card secure.
1. Buy From Sites You Trust
Just like shopping in the real world, it’s smart to stick with trusted retailers in the virtual world. Start by navigating to the official site directly by typing the URL into the address bar. Then look for the following security signs before handing over your credit card number:
The URL begins with “https” rather than “http”. This indicates it’s a secure http that uses encryption when transmitting data over the Internet.
The site features a lock icon either at the bottom of the page or in the address bar before the URL. This indicates the site has been secured.
The page includes service icons from trusted online security firms such as Verisign or McAfee.
Red flags include misspellings, low-resolution logos, requests for excessive personal information and sites that DON’T ask for the three-digit security code on the back of your credit card at checkout to ensure the card is actually in your possession.
2. Never Save Your Card Number
Sure, one-click checkout is convenient and easy. But allowing brands to save your credit card number makes it much easier to steal. If you type in your credit card number for a purchase there’s a chance your information could be stolen in the transmission process, but if your number is stored in a retail database there’s a greater opportunity for it to be stolen. If you don’t want to give up the convenience of one-click shopping be certain to use a very strong password (at least 10 characters with a combination of numbers, letters and symbols) for any site you allow to store your credit card number.
3. Avoid Using a Debit Card
There are three excellent reasons to use a credit card for online purchases instead of a debit card: federal protection, reimbursement time lag and the customer service protection and security services provided by top-rated credit cards. The Fair Credit Billing Act offers federal protection for consumers ensuring your liability for unauthorized charges on a credit card tops out at $50 (compared to $500+ for debit cards if you fail to report the loss in certain time frames). Another issue with debit cards is while your financial institution may reimburse you for fraud, the money is already siphoned out of your account so you will not have access to those funds while the claim is being processed.
Finally, most top-rated credit cards offer purchase and fraud protection on top of federal protection. For example, Discover card monitors every purchase and alerts cardmembers of any unusual activity. Cards can be frozen at any time and cardmembers are never responsible for unauthorized purchases.
4. Don’t Use Open WiFi Networks
As smartphone and tablet use continues to grow more and more people are online shopping everywhere they go. Smartphones are great for comparison shopping and mobile coupons, but be certain to only make purchases on your phone over secured networks. Public WiFi hotspots are especially vulnerable, so you can browse for your new sunglasses at Starbucks but wait until you’re on a secure network to click “purchase”. Also never make a purchase with a credit card on a public computer or tablet as the cache can save your personal information and allow access to the next user.
5. Don’t Respond to Suspicious Emails
The danger of fraud isn’t over once you have made a purchase online. Many phishing scams send emails replicating follow-up emails from retailers. They may say there’s a problem with your order and you need to resubmit your credit card over email, or ask for the last four digits of your Social Security number to confirm the purchase. Any legitimate retailer that needs additional information to complete your order will ask you to return to the site and submit information on an encrypted page (and this information will never be your Social Security number). When in doubt call the customer service line to speak directly with a representative.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to protecting your personal information while online shopping. Practice these tips for credit card security every time you make a purchase online to prevent identity theft and fraud. Happy shopping!