We have all heard stories about the lengths that credit card companies will go to in order to get more customers. There are purchasing rewards, low introductory rates and payment plans. Underage children have even been offered credit cards. But it doesn’t stop there; even Alan Greenspan once testified before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee that “dogs, cats, and moose are getting credit cards.”
Just six years after that comment, Internet retailers and the Federal Trade Commission have made some steps in the right direction towards making credit transactions more reliable and safe.
However there is still a great deal of work to be done. According to the FTC, about 25 million people have become victims of identity theft. So you see putting your credit card information online is not an unjustified concern.
Internet commerce is a huge part of our retail dollars. In America alone, consumers spend tens of billions of dollars per year over the Internet. Internet shopping provides many of the conveniences that people today are looking for. Yet there are still many who do not know how to navigate the Internet or who simply do not trust this relatively new mode of purchasing.
Internet retailers have found it in their best interest to make their websites as safe as possible so that consumers feel comfortable and safe spending their money there. Although the number of victims of identity theft and credit card fraud are high, they are comparable to the number of thefts and fraudulent acts that take place in the brick-and-mortar establishments that we patronize on a regular basis. Shopping online and shopping at a store in your neighborhood are actually not that much different when it comes to security. Just as you may be reluctant to use your credit card at a run-down pawn shop, there are websites that are more dangerous to use than others.
You need to trust your instincts, and be on your guard when you are shopping online. Protect your own information when browsing cyberspace the same way you would when browsing Main Street in your own town. Once you gain confidence in the technology and in your ability to differentiate a safe site from an unsafe site, you will feel safer putting your credit card information online.
Because the Internet is a relatively new way to conduct business, new ways of theft have been devised to keep up. As a savvy consumer, it is in your best interest to know the tricks of a possible identity thief so that you can protect yourself from a potential theft.
• A firewall hides your computer from unwanted prying eyes. There are a variety of Internet and software tools that can give you the security of a firewall. One example of a brand name firewall is the Norton Personal Firewall.
• Different browsers have different encryption abilities. Browsers can encrypt the personal information that you send online so that potential thieves cannot interpret and re-use the information. Use a browser with 128-bit encryption versus a 40-bit encryption. The 40-bit encryption does not provide as much security
• Just one example of a less technical way that can compromise the safety of your personal information is to let down your guard while you are handling your personal information in a public place: it is called shoulder surfing. Shoulder surfing is when a consumer is distracted in the middle of a transaction by someone looking to commit fraud. The fraud then steals the individual’s PIN, Social Security number, or credit card number to use at his own leisure at a later date. You can easily avoid such tricks by being on your guard and never letting your personal information out of your sight.
Of course there are other tricks that thieves use to take advantage of you. But the point is that you do not have to be a helpless victim. Putting your credit card information online is as safe as you are willing to make it. Be proactive in your research of what are and what are not safe websites to be patronizing. Make sure that in the unfortunate event that you do become a victim, you have safeguards in place to recover what you have lost.