How to Keep Your Credit Card Safe Online
Using your credit card to buy something online has become an almost daily habit for most people, and it’s especially popular around the holidays. Even so, there are many people who are still uncomfortable with submitting their credit card information online. Their fears aren’t completely unfounded. Scams are everywhere and the techniques scammers use are constantly evolving so it’s true that you are taking on a little bit of risk if you punch in your credit card number online.
Luckily, with some common sense on your part and some technological advances it is incredibly safe to shop online. That isn’t to say there aren’t potential dangers out there, but if you are able to follow a few basic tips and procedures you can make sure your credit card information is safe.
- Just like you should be aware of your surroundings and be on the lookout for suspicious looking characters when withdrawing money from an ATM, you should know how to recognize the warning signs of online scams and take steps to avoid being a victim. Don’t just blindly click on links or emails and keep your eye out for things that just don’t quite seem right.
- Ensure your browser and operating system are running the latest versions and you have applied all of the recent updates. These online scammers are constantly changing their tactics and companies must update their software over time to combat their attacks. If you’re running a version that’s a year old you may be vulnerable.
- Watch for the padlock icon on the status bar at the bottom of your browser window, which indicates that the site is secure. You will also want to look for an ‘s’ added to the usual http at the beginning of the web site’s URL when you get ready to submit your purchase information. The https indicates a secure server that is using SSL, which means your information is being encrypted. Without the https or other secure transmission you open yourself up to having your credit card information snagged by a thief during the transaction.
- Don’t provide personal information such as address, telephone number, Social Security number, bank account number, or e-mail address unless you know who you’re providing the information to, why it’s being requested, and how it will be used. If an online store is requesting more information than you’re used to, stop and think about why it is asking.
- Use a credit card, not a debit card, for online purchases. A debit and credit card may look the same, but they aren’t. You have more protection in the event of a fraudulent purchase if you use a credit card. Besides, your debit card is linked to your bank account, so if your information gets stolen you could find your account wiped out!
- Carefully review your credit card and bank statement each month for unauthorized charges and notify your credit card company or bank immediately if you notice any charges you didn’t authorize. Not only that, but you should be monitoring your credit score and report on a regular basis. Sometimes the goal is to steal your information so that a criminal can create a fake identity, not necessarily steal your money. So looking at your bank statements might not alert you to identity theft.
- Finally, make sure your computer is secure. If you use a wireless network at home you need to be sure you have it locked down with at least some sort of WEP or WAP protection. Avoid transacting business on wireless networks that are not your own. And make sure your computer’s anti-virus and spyware software is updated and keeping your computer safe. One way scammers can get your information is by loading trojans or other hidden programs on your computer that silently take your personal information even if you don’t realize it.
Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle
My name is Jeremy Vohwinkle, and I’ve spent a number of years working in the finance industry providing financial advice to regular investors and those participating in employer-sponsored retirement plans.