Gone are the days when you needed to visit a convenience store or mall to buy something.
Thanks to the internet, you can now conceivably buy everything you need from the comfort of your house. Movies, appliances, furniture, groceries – if you want it, you can buy it with a few clicks.
It sounds convenient, and it is.
But as prevalent as online shopping is, there is still concern about whether or not it’s safe to use your credit card for it. Like most things, the answer is “it depends” on how you shop.
Is Shopping Online with My Credit Card Safe?
Yes, it’s safe to treat yourself with some online retail therapy with your credit card, even though it does depend on the shopping site as well as your device and network security.
In order to use a credit card to complete an online purchase, you’ll need to enter your credit card number, the name printed on the card and the CVV number at the back.
Once you confirm an order, your credit card info passes through an encrypted channel to the payment processor that takes care of the transaction. Payment pages on secure e-commerce sites feature encryptions that help protect your credit card info from malicious people.
Now, this assumes that you’re using a secure website, device, and network. While using your card to shop online is generally safe, you’ll need to take care of a few things on your end to keep your risk to a minimum.
How to Protect Your Credit Card When Shopping Online
Some security risks are outside your control, but you can reduce your risk significantly by following these tips:
- Watch Where You Shop
With new e-commerce sites popping up every day, it can be daunting to know which ones are legitimate and which ones will risk your personal and financial info.
Sticking to major retailers with a trustworthy reputation is one way to keep your credit card safe. But that means missing out on great deals on new shopping sites.
It’s up to you to investigate the merchant and the URL.
- Start by exploring the merchant’s consumer reviews and look up their name on the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) website.
- Some of these unsafe sites don’t encrypt your data, putting you at risk. So how do you know if a site encrypts your information? Easy. A safe site has a locked padlock icon and the URL includes the letter “s” after http. https:// implies that the site authenticates and encrypts your data.
- If a site crashes or sends you pop-ups frequently, those are signs that it may be less guarded.
- Check the spelling of the URL. Clone sites will often purchase domains that resemble the actual site, with a one-character difference in the URL. This is referred to as typosquatting or URL hijacking.
- If the shopping site looks off visually and has noticeable misspellings/grammatical errors and odd sentence structures, it’s probably a scam.
- Watch out for Phishing Attempts
You may receive an email with a link that appears to be from a big, well-known retailer. The email is often urgent and requires you to confirm your banking or credit card info.
To protect your credit card, avoid shopping directly through that link. It could infect your computer or phone with viruses and malware. Instead, use your web browser to navigate the site. This could protect you from a possible phishing attack.
Some hints that an email is fake include extra spaces, typos, and an email address that differs only slightly from a legitimate address.
You should be suspicious if you get a call, text, or link from “your bank” asking you for your account information.
- Shop Using A Private Device and Trusted Network
When you shop using a communal PC, say in a public library or internet cafe, sites can save login info and leave accounts vulnerable to the next user.
Yes, you may log out of a public computer, but you still run the risk that spyware that can record keystrokes and gain access to personal info might be installed.
Using your own phone or laptop is safer but not entirely foolproof. The information you share online is only as secure as the network you’re on. This is why you need to stick to private, trusted networks when shopping online. Your home network is the best option since you can ensure it is secure.
Try to avoid public networks as much as you can. When using public networks, you can never be sure who is seeing your information. Hackers often spy on public Wi-Fi networks and intercept data transferred across the link.
Contrary to popular misconception, mobile networks are not completely secure. As a precaution, try to avoid shopping on your phone, unless you’re connected to private Wi-Fi. Also, consider subscribing to VPN to add a layer of security.
- Be Careful When Saving Your Credit Card Info
Many e-commerce sites offer to save your credit card information for future use. No problem – it’s a common thing to save credit cards with particular trusted sites.
However, if you’re going to do that, it’s critical that you keep your account with that site secure.
That may mean generating a strong password, and if you save that password on your PC, then your PC needs to be password-protected. Otherwise, anybody with access to your PC could use your credit card to make purchases once they get in.
If you use multiple devices, consider turning off the Autofill function in every browser you use.
- Utilize Your Credit Card App’s Security Features
Mobile apps often come with security features to help prevent fraud on your account.
Account transaction alerts – You can set up alerts for online purchases or instances where the balance and/or transaction exceeds a designated amount. This can help you recognize unauthorized transactions and dispute them swiftly.
2-Factor authentication – If the wrong person gains access to your credit card’s login details, setting up 2-factor authentication will block them from accessing more info. This security feature asks for a passcode via email or text to ensure that you’re the one accessing the account.
Whenever possible, check out as a guest as opposed to creating an account that stores your card info when making a purchase.
- Create Strong and Unique Passwords
Passwords for your credit card should be complex to keep hackers from accessing multiple accounts using the same login info. Use a separate password for each account you create with an online retailer.
An effective password should generally be long (at least 15 characters), and contain numbers, symbols, both upper- and lower-case letters, and special characters (if permitted). Avoid sequential letters or numbers.
While it’s advisable to use memorable phrases that you won’t forget, they shouldn’t contain any personal details.
Also, refrain from writing your passwords down anywhere.
- Limit the Number of Credit Cards You Use
If possible, designate a single credit card for all your online purchases.
By doing this, you will keep yourself from exposing multiple credit card accounts to hackers and easily monitor suspicious charges. Some finance institutions offer special cards for online usage.
- Use an Online Payment Service
Online payment services like PayPal, Apple Pay, Visa Checkout, and Mastercard Masterpass hide your credit card details from the stores/sellers you’re purchasing the goods and services from.
This ensures additional protection against hackers, and in the event that something goes wrong during the transaction process, their Buyer Protection guarantee ensures smooth refunds.
- Stay on Top of Updates and Use Security Software
Your operating system and apps usually have regular updates that patch security holes to keep you safer. When you receive a notification of an available update, download it right away.
If you don’t receive update notifications, you need to update your software and apps manually as often as you can.
Additionally, see to it that you cover yourself with reputable and the most recent antispyware and antivirus software that offers protection on all devices.
Contact your issuer immediately to lock or cancel the card if you notice something fishy.
Online shopping can be a treasure-trove for hackers.
You can’t completely rule out the possibility of you being a victim of credit card and identity theft, but with some maintenance, vigilance, and additional layers of security, you can protect your credit card and your online shopping experience.
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