Using a credit card online is convenient and easy, but it’s important to take certain precautions to protect your personal and financial information.
As new technologies emerge, data thieves continually look for ways to exploit unsuspecting victims. Fortunately, there are strategies you can follow to protect yourself.
1. Use Only One Credit Card For Online Purchases
The more cards you put online, the more vulnerabilities you create for yourself. This is why it’s advisable to use only one card to make purchases over the internet.
The primary advantages of using a single card are that you can easily track your online purchases and you can simplify your financial records.
Set Up Payment Notifications
Once you’ve chosen a card to use for online payments, the next step is to set up your account to receive payment notifications so that you’ll be instantly alerted if someone tries to buy something with your card.
Tip: When you choose your credit card, pick one that has a zero liability policy (you are not responsible) for unauthorised charges, as well as robust fraud protection features.
2. Be Ca reful Where You Shop Online
Avoiding shady websites is the golden rule of online shopping. But how do you know when a website is legitimate or not?
Red flags to look out for include:
An Unusual URL
Scammers like to create fake websites that look and function like legitimate sites but are actually designed to steal your information.
A scam website uses a URL that is almost identical to the real thing but contains small differences in spelling that give away its purpose. So, keep a close eye on spelling, and if you notice discrepancies, do NOT input your credit card information!
Asking For Your National Insurance Number
If a website asks for your National Insurance Number or bank account details, be extra cautious.
Ask yourself, why would they need this information and who is requesting it?
The Site Feels Fake
Not all scammers are skilled at designing websites, nor do they necessarily have the resources to hire professionals to create truly compelling fakes.
Instead, many low-level scammers cobble together the best replicas of legitimate businesses they can, hoping to snare victims who are uneducated about the dangers of online card theft.
For this reason, you’ll notice that fake websites often have poor design and functionality and lack the signature feeling of the sites being copied.
A good rule of thumb is, if a website looks and feels like a knockoff, it probably is!
The Site Doesn’t Have Contact Information
A website that doesn’t have a phone number, email, or physical address is a huge red flag.
If you can’t find a way to speak with the person you are buying products and services from, the question is why? The answer is they might be running a scam!
The nature of business is to interact with customers. Legitimate business owners are happy to answer phone calls and emails and address your concerns.
If a website has random pop-ups and redirects, you want to be careful, as these can be used to deceive victims into giving away their personal information.
Even giving away simple information like your email address can leave you vulnerable to an exploit.
Bear in mind that pop-ups and forms on legitimate websites are usually safe. However, formjacking is a type of cyber attack where hackers inject malicious code into online forms in order to steal sensitive information entered by users.
This information can include credit card details, personal information, and login credentials.
Even legitimate websites are not free from the threat of formjacking. In fact, formjacking code has been discovered on sites as prominent as British Airways.
While we certainly don’t want anyone living in fear over every form they fill out online, exercising caution and awareness when filling out online forms is the right approach.
No SSL Certificate
When a website lacks an SSL certificate, this is a red flag.
You should see “https” in the URL of every website that requests personal information from you. If the “s” is missing, then the website doesn’t have SSL encryption and is not secure.
A Website Emails You A Link
If you receive a link to a website via email, exercise caution. While many legitimate businesses send out advertising emails, a common tactic of scammers is to send out links to fake websites.
Scammers have gotten good at creating compelling emails that look like they are from official sources.
It is advisable to always navigate to a website directly via a search engine rather than follow an emailed link.
Small, Obscure Websites You’ve Never Heard Of
Small ecommerce stores can be safe to purchase from, but it’s important to take precautions to ensure that you are buying from a reputable and trustworthy seller.
The best thing to do if you want to buy from a small business is to research the seller. Look for reviews of the company and its products, and check the seller’s social media accounts to see if they are active and engaged with customers.
The website should also have clear policies for shipping, returns, and refunds. If the policies are unclear or missing, this is a bad sign.
3. Use Anti-Virus Software
Anti-virus software can detect and remove viruses, spyware, and other types of malware that could compromise your computer and steal your personal information, including credit card information.
Having anti-virus protection is essential nowadays, especially since the techniques scammers are using to access the personal information of victims are constantly evolving.
An enormous amount of credit card fraud relies on spyware, which professional anti-virus software can help protect you from.
What makes spyware so dangerous is that it’s hard for the average person to detect, meaning their computer or phone could be infected and silently gathering information while the user has no idea.
Spyware today has become quite advanced, allowing scammers to record your keystrokes, view your browsing habits, take screenshots, and more.
All it takes is for a scammer to grab hold of one screenshot that contains your bank account and credit card information to do a lot of damage.
Using anti-virus protection and a firewall, while not a perfect solution, provides a blanket of protection for you.
Update Your Computer
In addition to robust anti-virus protection, you also want to update your computer when updates become available. While this is an easy step, it is effective and can shore up holes in your computer’s security.
Updating Your Apps
Staying on top of your apps is also important since scammers frequently attempt to hack people through messaging apps, social media apps, or gaming apps.
Scammers may send you a link to download an app that installs malware onto your device. Once installed, the malware can steal your personal information, including credit card details.
Scammers routinely create fake apps that ask for permission to access your device’s camera, microphone, or other features, giving the scammers access to your personal information.
To avoid problematic apps, sort through the ones on your phone to ensure they are from reputable businesses by checking their ratings and reviews.
And of course, always be cautious about the information you input into apps, especially your credit card details.
4. Shop In A Private Area Using A Secure Connection
Don’t shop while using public devices, such as a library computer! Using your credit card on any public terminal puts you at risk, as there are subtle ways data thieves can collect your information.
Likewise, don’t shop using public wi-fi since you are at risk of what is known as a man-in-the-middle attack.
For those unfamiliar, a man-in-the-middle attack occurs when a skilled scammer running a fake wi-fi zone lures guests who are looking for free wi-fi.
Public wi-fi networks are often unencrypted, which means that anyone on the same network can potentially intercept and eavesdrop on your internet traffic.
Fake wi-fi access points are indistinguishable from real ones, making them extra risky and deceptive.
Using Wi-Fi At A Hotel
If you plan on staying in a hotel any time soon, avoid free wi-fi if you see it being offered unless the hotel explicitly confirms that their wi-fi is free.
Even if the hotel has free wi-fi available, it is strongly advised that you use the hotel’s wired connection or stick to your own mobile device to create a wi-fi hotspot.
Other Online Shopping Tips
When shopping, it’s advisable to use a VPN, which encrypts your data, making it harder to steal.
Additionally, using a well-known browser that supports https, such as Chrome, allows you to benefit from the latest security updates.
5. Use A Virtual Account Number
Virtual card numbers are randomly generated credit card numbers that can be used for online purchases. They offer an extra layer of security by keeping your actual credit card number hidden from merchants and potential hackers.
One benefit of virtual card numbers is they can be issued and revoked very quickly. One disadvantage is they are primarily for online use.
Obtaining A Virtual Card Number
To obtain a virtual card number, you have to go through your card issuer. You’ll need to log into your account to see if you’re eligible to enroll and then contact the appropriate department.
Assuming you’re eligible, your virtual card numbers will be generated through the issuer’s website or mobile app. When you receive a number, it will be a random 16-digit number that is linked to your credit card account.
If your card issuer doesn’t offer virtual numbers, you can use Click to Pay, which is used by American Express, Mastercard, and Visa.
Virtual Numbers Are Tied To Your Account
These numbers are tied to your actual credit card account, but they have a different number and expiration date than your physical card.
When you use a virtual card number for an online purchase, the charge appears on your credit card statement just like any other transaction.
Virtual Credit Card Number Fee and Additional Features
Some credit card issuers may charge a fee for generating virtual card numbers or a monthly fee for the service, while others may offer virtual card numbers as a free service to cardholders.
Certain virtual card number services may offer additional features, such as the ability to set spending limits, receive alerts for suspicious transactions, or use virtual numbers for recurring payments.
Stolen Credit Card Numbers
There are several signs that may indicate that your credit card numbers have been stolen, but one of the most common is seeing multiple small transactions on your credit card statements.
Even though these transactions are small, don’t turn a blind eye to them. They may be the product of card testing fraud.
To learn more about how to protect yourself from card testing attacks, see our article on the subject—How To Protect Yourself From Card Testing (INSERT ARTICLE LINK ONCE LIVE).
What To Do If Your Credit Card Number Has Been Stolen
In the event your credit card number has been stolen, you should do the following:
- Contact your credit issuer and request that they put a hold on your account
- Change your login information (your username, password, and PIN) and enable two-factor authentication
- Scrutinize your next credit card statement for new signs of fraud, going through each transaction with specific focus on who the merchant is, the purchase amount, and when the purchase was made
- Request credit reports from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, paying special attention to credit cards you haven’t used in a long time, if any. Assuming you find errors in the credit reports, submit a dispute to the credit bureaus in addition to setting up a fraud alert that freezes all loan applications until further notice
- Work with a credit monitoring service
Credit Monitoring Service
For fast alerts, you might consider hiring a credit monitoring service, the job of which is to detect identity theft, fraud, and errors in your credit report.
Credit monitoring services can be helpful if you’re concerned about card information theft or want to keep a close eye on your credit report.
Protecting yourself from credit card number theft is essential in today’s digital age, where financial fraud and identity theft are on the rise.
Credit card fraud can leave you liable for certain charges, hurt your credit score, and create unnecessary hardship for you and your loved ones.
By following the steps presented above, you can reduce your chance of falling prey to scammers.
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