You have never before used a credit card online, and you wonder if it is safe? Credit card fraud exists outside of the online world. There are hackers who would love to steal your online credit card information, but there are built-in safeguards to protect you on reputable sites that accept credit card payments. There are additional things you can do to protect yourself.
First of all, do not use your credit card on any website that will not provide encryption for your important information, such as your account number and any password you may create.
Encryption is a system to encode your personal information in such a way that only the person with the computer and a key can decode it. Typically a safe website might say that information is encrypted using a Secure Sockets Layer, 128 bit encryption technology.
Why is encryption so important? Let us start with passwords. If a hacker could get your password, he could get all the information about your credit card account, such as what your line of credit is, how much is remaining on that line, your address, phone number, and account number. You can imagine what a dishonest person could do with such information.
Hackers use computer programs that automate the process of learning your password. Instead of typing potential passwords by hand, hackers use computer programs that use hit lists of common passwords. Even a hacker with a modest home computer with a good password guessing program can try thousands of passwords in less than a day’s time. You can see why your password being encrypted would be important if you want to use your credit card online safely. There are additional things you can do to make it even harder for a hacker to learn your password, and we will get into that later in the article.
Never send such information about your credit card account number, password, Social Security number, and other important information through an e-mail. Hackers have programs to snoop through e-mails. Also, don’t store your credit card information in documents on your computer, especially if your computer is used by others, or could be.
Computer encryption is based on cryptology, which has been used throughout history. Governments were the biggest users of cryptology, especially for military purposes.
If you are asking for help from a site, don’t give out your credit card number. Any reputable site should not ask for such information, just to provide help. If any site asks for such information, something is fishy. If that happens, inform the Webmaster of the site.
What happens if your credit card information is stolen, not from you, but from the vendor, perhaps from an e-commerce server? There actually might be little you can do to prevent that, except hoping that the vendor takes adequate care to protect information.
Are you liable in such an instance? The law is not clear. It might be good to check with your bank or credit card company. Some credit card companies will contact you, if someone at the company detects unusual activity involving your account.
There are additional steps you can take to make your credit card information, password, and other information safe: don’t give out the information in response to an unsolicited phone call or e-mail, even if the person contacting you says he or she is from your bank, credit card company, or a website where you have done business; never write down a password or PIN (personal identification number) and keep it with a credit card.
Additional steps you can take to protect yourself: keep your credit cards in a safe place at all times; always check your statements to be certain there are no charges you did not authorize; only buy from sites you know, or that have a good reputation, or that have been recommended to you; keep copies of your orders; protect your computer with a starter username and password; install anti-virus software on your computer, keep it up to date and regularly run security scans; install the latest security updates; disable any options on your computer that would allow you to automatically log in without using a username or password; and disable any feature which allows you to share files with others.
Finally, even if you use a secure website that uses encryption, it never hurts to use a safe password. Examples of bad passwords are: your name; your spouse’s name; the name of your children; the name of your favorite team or player; any of the names just mentioned backwards, or with a single number following the name; any password that is too short, like less than eight characters; magic words from a computer game, such as xyzzy; phone numbers; characters from your favorite movies or books; local landmark names; favorite drinks; famous computer scientists; using your username as a password; the names of your coworkers, friends, or boss; the name of the computer operating system you are using; the name of the computer operating system you are using; your license plate number; the birthday of anybody; your alma mater; place names; and passwords of all the same letter.
Some suggestions for choosing a good password include putting two short words together and combining them with a special character or number. An example could be frog9apple, eye-pig, or eye/-pig. Use an acronym that is familiar only to you. An example could be IhmjIlmcIlmw. (I hate my job; I love my computer; I love my wife.)
Technology has made the word a more convenient place to live in it a lot of ways. You don’t have to be afraid to take advantage of new technology by using your credit card online.