With regular news of identity theft, credit card fraud, and database hacking, many people are understandably concerned about the security of their information online, particularly when it comes to online shopping. So much so, that some specifically avoid online shopping for fear of having their payment information stolen.
Should the time we can when we can literally hand our cash through our computer monitor directly to the online shop keeper, that might be the day everyone feels 100% secure. Since that day will not happen in our lifetimes. People should be more concerned about the security of their information off-line and on-line.
Online Shopping is Ubiquitous
Most of us now take online shopping for granted. Some may even wonder that this article is needed at all. The fact is, there are still many people who are afraid to shop at online merchants, even well-known, reputable ones. Why? They’re convinced that the internet is full of hackers just waiting to steal their credit card information as it goes by. They’re quite willing to give that same payment information, along with an image of their signature, no less, to a stranger at a restaurant or a grumpy clerk in a retail store.
Risk Versus More Risk
Many experts state that “most people have an over-inflated sense of risk when it comes to threats they don’t understand”. We are most comfortable with black and white absolutes: yes or no, safe or not safe. Unfortunately, the world isn’t black or white. It’s very important to realize that there are risks either way, online or off.
There are Few Unique Risks Online
There are very few risks that are truly unique to using your credit card online. Online shopping security issues do exist. Your device could have malware in the form of a keylogger, which records everything you type. And yes, it’s extremely rare, but your connection to an online merchant could be intercepted by someone watching and recording your payment information.
Much more common are the things that apply regardless of how you use your credit card. The news reports we hear are major breaches at retailers and banks, where it doesn’t matter if you used your card online or off. In fact, most of those break-ins are caught and dealt with so quickly that if you are affected, it’s only to the extent that you might unexpectedly get a replacement credit card.
Offline Risk are More the Concern
Individual theft occurs more frequently off-line.
A clerk might make a copy of your card and signature.
A dumpster diver could grab your bank statements out of your trash.
Someone might steal your new credit card out of your mail box.
You use your card at a cash machine, but a thief has hidden a “card skimmer” on the reader that steals the information on your card as you use it.
An unscrupulous waitress takes your credit card from your table and uses a “card skimmer” to steal your card information.
These off-line methods are all much more common than individual online theft. Even though we seem to hear about online theft on a semi-regular basis, there is a strong argument that says there are still fairly rare occurrences, compared to the millions of cardholders and millions of transactions that happen every day.
Good Sense – Good Security
The fact is, regardless how you use it, using your credit card represents risk. So does getting out of bed in the morning.
Online or Off:
Shop with merchants you know and trust.
Watch for things out of place, be it something odd about the card reader in a store, or a missing https padlock on a web site.
Beware of phishing and other attempts to fool you into giving your personal information to those who would abuse it.
Contact your credit card company whenever you think something may have happened.
Bottom Line? Online Shopping is generally safer than many physical in-person transactions. Don’t let unfounded fear stop you from enjoying the convenience.
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