Safeguard Your Credit Card When Shopping OnlineLaura Rich
After making your list and checking it twice, chances are you will be firing up your computer to buy many of those items online this year.
Unfortunately, shopping right alongside you will be phishers and hackers out to steal your credit card information at any chance they get.
“In the frenzy of holiday shopping, millions of transactions occur in the hustle and bustle,” says Robert Siciliano, identity theft expert and security consultant at Intelius, a company that provides identity theft protection services. If you’re not vigilant, “you could be paying for the holiday shopping of an identity thief.”
Last year, Americans lost $48 billion to identity theft. That’s a loss of about $4,849 per person, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, a market research firm.
Law enforcement efforts to fight identity theft are finally paying off. Earlier this year, one criminal, Albert Gonzales, was picked up for stealing 130 million credit card accounts by hacking into computer networks of retail stores. Federal authorities have charged him with illegally accessing computer records at such retail chains as T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, BJ's Wholesale Club and more.
Theft at that level is beyond your control, of course, but there are ways to spot a trap, and avoid it. When you do use your computer to make purchases, take these steps to help ensure that your shopping experience as secure as possible.
1. Make sure there’s an ‘s’ in the URL. The first indication that a site is secure is in the URL. A secure site will begin with ‘https://.’ The ‘s’ indicates that the site has been verified by a certificate authority like VeriSign or TRUSTe and transfers data through a secure connection.
2. Find the seal of approval. If the site is verified by VeriSign or TRUSTe, it will carry a seal from one of those organizations (or both). Additionally, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) also issues retail websites a "seal of approval" that verifies that the business follows certain practices to protect consumer privacy. You can confirm the legitimacy of a site by looking for the seals from one of these sources.
3. Check your credit card statements regularly. “Pay close attention to your credit card statement, at least every week, especially in the holiday season,” suggests Siciliano. With credit cards, you have 30 to 60 days to dispute a charge, depending on the company.
4. Scrutinize your bank statements. Banks are less forgiving than credit card companies, offering just 10 days, or less, to claim fraudulent withdrawals. Bottom line: Log in to your bank account and review your activity on a regular basis.
5. Use protection services from credit card companies. Some credit card companies are taking extra precautions to make sure your online purchases are safe.
Visa. The “Verified by Visa” program is a service that offers an additional layer of protection through the use of an extra password. When you shop at an online store that participates in this program, you will be prompted to provide a unique password (issued by Visa) to prove your identity. Without this password, your transaction will not be processed.
MasterCard. The “SecureCode” program operates much like Visa’s “Verified by Visa.” Online merchants that participate in “SecureCode” require you to provide an additional password or PIN (issued by MasterCard) to complete a purchase at their site.
Discover. “Secure Online Account Numbers” is a service that provides added security using an entirely different method. With this service, you would make an online purchase by using a temporary credit card number, instead of your real one. Using this temporary number means your real card number is never revealed and therefore never at risk.
By taking these precautions to protect your credit card number, you can make your holiday online shopping experience safe and secure. And as we all know, you can’t put a price tag on peace of mind.
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