Credit cards and internet security

With technology advancing rapidly, so is the opportunity for abuse. Fraudsters have jumped on the internet bandwagon, developing new methods of stealing credit card information from unsuspecting consumers, sometimes without them even knowing they’ve been scammed. So how do can you keep your credit card information secure?

Scam study: the “update your details” email

This is a common scam where you are sent an email supposedly from your credit card provider asking you to update your banking details or enter credit card information to update security. The email will usually include a hyperlink to a website where you’re asked to enter your details.

But the website that this link goes to has no association with your credit card provider - in fact it’s owned by the fraudster - and when you enter your details they have all the information they need to illegally use your credit card.

What should you consider when using your credit card online?

First of all, never respond to emails requesting you to follow a link within the email itself. Reputable financial institutions don’t send emails with links to their web pages. If in doubt, access your online banking or credit card account using your normal method and check the validity of the email there.

When making purchases online, never buy from an unsecure site and do some research first. Don't buy from a company you know nothing about as there have been reports of scam sites which will take your money then disappear. Also, don't respond to high-pressure selling tactics, where the organisation tries to force you or entice you to supply your credit card details without delay. High-pressure tactics are often linked to fraud.

Never send your credit card details - or any sensitive information - by email. Emails are not secure and can easily be read by others. Don't trust any company who requests payment by this method.

How do I know if a site is secure?

Secure internet sites protect your information by encrypting it as the transaction occurs. The methods of encryption vary, but many sites use a Secure Socket Layer (SSL). Sites protected by SSL will have a net address starting with https (as compared with standard web pages which begin http), they will also show a small padlock icon in the bottom of the browser window.

What is my credit card provider doing to help me?

Many card providers now have added security and software designed to protect credit card holders. One example is The Falcon - fraud detection software that watches all accounts constantly, looking for irregularities, such as unusually large transactions, irregular spending or simultaneous purchases in two different places.

Many financial institutions are now offering an online guarantee. If an online purchase is made without your consent they will not charge your card for it as long as you have adhered to all the conditions, such as not disclosing the card details and not giving your card to another person.

Visa and MasterCard have also developed their own online shopping security systems which depend upon a password linked to your credit card, similar to a PIN or signature, as verification.

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