While credit card fraud is on the rise, internet credit card fraud seems to be rising more dramatically. This should not be taken to mean that making online purchases is more risky than other means of purchasing goods or services. In fact, the opposite is true. How is this?
You see, as long as you do your purchases through reputable companies with secure servers, you should be alright. Loosely defined, a secure server encrypts information so it cannot be read or cracked by a middle person. But how do you tell if a server is really secure?
One way to tell if a server is secure is by looking at your address bar. Non-secured servers begin with “http” while secure serves begin with “https”. The difference is the “S” at the end which stands for, you guessed it, “secure”.
But the problem with internet credit card fraud is not really in the purchasing process per se. It is non-internet fraud tactics gone internet.
You see, crooked employees are virtually everywhere. The same crooked employee who can take your order at your local hardware store (just for example) could be the one who will take your order online or over the phone; or someone of the same ilk. Only that the internet offers the crook more confidence due to the anonymous nature.
This is why it is important to deal with reputable merchants as they will go to great lengths to protect their customers, up to and including compensating you for any lose incurred in a transaction.
However, nothing can replace your due diligence. You should make a habit of viewing your credit card statements. Better still, regularly check your transactions online whether or not you’ve made a purchase and call your bank or credit card company as soon as you notice anything suspicious.
I know this firsthand as my credit card once got stolen at a time when I had not made any purchases and therefore had no reason to check my account.
I only discovered the theft when my bank alerted me of suspicious transactions on my card. Actually, it was a little embarrassing: I was in a store checking out when the card was declined. When I called the bank I was told the card had been put on hold due to suspicious transactions. Someone had even attempted to withdraw cash from an ATM in a city I had never been to.
Upon checking my credit card account online, sure enough there were other purchases I did not know of. The credit card was cancelled and replaced with another one with a different number.
You should invest in a good computer antivirus and anti-spyware and possibly a firewall. This will protect you from malicious codes and things like keystroke loggers. Keystroke loggers can track the keys struck on a keyboard, without your knowledge, and then relay information to some crook. You can imagine the type of information a crook can get his hands on using such a device.
Remember also to keep updating your operating systems (such as Windows or Mac). Many updates are intended to patch certain security vulnerabilities that have been discovered. Do update your anti-virus regularly too.
Another method that a surprisingly big number of consumers continue to fall victim to internet credit card fraud is one called phishing. This often involves receiving an email, ostensibly from your bank or card company asking you to change or verify personal information.
Often, the fraudsters use scare tactics like telling you that your account may soon be closed. When you click on the link provided, you are taken to a legitimate-looking site where you fill out your information including credit card or debit card number, address, phone number and PIN. You have just given the scammer your bank book.
Side note: For some reason, many of these suspicious emails seem to be typed in all capitals in the headline.
The best protection from this is never to click a link from such an email. Instead, go into your account by typing your bank or credit card company’s address in your browser’s (such as Internet Explorer or Firefox) address bar.