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6 Best Practices to Keep Your Online Purchases Safe

January 10, 2017

You may think that your credit card information is at risk only if your card is lost or stolen; however, that’s not really true. You can become a victim of fraud if you use your card to shop online as well. If you enter your card information into false and insecure payment gateways, thieves may steal the information and use it to siphon money from your account.

Nevertheless, it is not all doom and gloom – by putting in just a little bit of effort, you can guard yourself from most online scams. Here’s what you need to do to ensure that your online purchases don’t result in any fraudster’s attacks.

  1. Use a Credit Card Instead of a Debit Card: With credit cards, your liability in the event of a fraudulent transaction is capped at $50 (and seldom assessed at all), while this amount stands at $500 for debit cards. Moreover, if your debit card details are stolen, you could lose access to all the money in your checking account until the bank solves the problem. In case of fraud, credit cards are easier to handle as thieves can't take anything from your pocket.

  2. Shop from Trusted Websites Only: Whenever you shop online, make sure you visit the site by typing the URL address in the browser instead of clicking on links in unsolicited emails, as these could take you to a fake website that may steal your card info. Also, while entering your card details, check if the page’s address starts with https:// rather than http://. The extra ‘s’ indicates that the site uses an encryption system to scramble your information so that it’s harder for attackers to decipher. Finally, look for a seal of approval from a company like McAfee, the Better Business Bureau, VeriSign or TRUSTe – these indicate that the trustworthiness of the vendor has been verified.

  3. Use Two-Factor Authentication When Available: This is an authentication mechanism that checks whether your identity is legitimate or not by adding a second security layer in addition to your username and password. For example, to execute a transaction, some websites may ask you to input a one-time code that you receive on your mobile phone via SMS when you confirm your order. Even if cyber criminals have access to your username and password, it’s usually quite difficult for them to obtain the second authentication factor – this reduces their ability to con you.

  4. Don’t Shop While in Public Places: Many public computers save login information on their websites, which could give crooks access to your information. Even if you log out, hackers may obtain your username, password or credit card details by installing software that captures your keystrokes. Public Wi-Fi’s are not safe either – hackers can steal any information that you input as it is being transmitted.

  5. Use Strong Passwords: Many consumers have the tendency to use simple passwords, such as their name or even ‘12345’ as they find it easier to remember these. However, an easy to remember password is also one that is easy to hack. It’s best to use passwords that contain both numbers and a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, along with at least one symbol such as @ or #. Also, make sure that you have different passwords for different accounts. Otherwise, if one of your accounts is hacked, all of them may become compromised.

  6. Follow Your Instincts: Finally, you should always pay heed to your instincts and common sense. If there seems to be something fishy about a website, don’t use it. If a site seems to be asking for too much information, or for unusually private information, such as your social security number, you’ll do well to steer clear of it.

As long as you follow the instructions above, you’ll likely find that you’re safe from the clutches of all kinds of online criminals.

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