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Using credit/debit cards online - don't?

Things are tough online now; a business gets hacked and suddenly millions of customer's details are in the hands of hackers. This is more commonplace than is comfortable. And sometimes those details include credit cards. There is also an underground industry of stolen credit card details, often funding illicit "deal" websites like G2A (a computer game reseller), or other, seedier sites.

There is no way to guarantee that a website will not be hacked; even the most fastidious, security-oriented businesses like LastPass (known for storing online passwords securely) have been hacked, leading many to ask, how can I guarantee that my credit card details are safe online?

Luckily, there is a way to ensure that your credit card will never be used by the wrong people online: that is, not to use it or to use it sparingly, and prevent businesses from storing it. For example, when Trademe asks you if you want to store your credit card details for the next transaction with them - you may simply say no, and untick that box. It is best practice to do this with all online sites that you use a credit or debit card with. That way, the company can only store the card's details for the duration of the transaction, but no longer.

Sure, it's tedious and time-consuming to re-type a credit card number many times, but it beats having someone else obtain it. Last year while I was travelling in America, I suffered the embarrassment of not being able to pay for a restaurant bill because my bank had flagged the credit card as being possibly compromised (nothing to do with me being overseas, I had informed them in advance, as you should of course do). In other words; even if a threat doesn't eventuate, these things still have consequences.

A second approach is to use an online service such as Paypal to transfer funds. Many or most online businesses accept Paypal, and while Paypal will store your credit/debit card details, those details are only shared with one company instead of many. Which, purely through statistical odds, decreases the chance of your credit card details being hacked and stolen. Of course, you should use a very secure password for Paypal, just like any other site; see the earlier article of mine about creating a secure password.

All in all the online world is still the 'wild west', with many miscreants, bad actors and saboteurs. Let's hope eventually the world forms a more unified approach to dealing with these issues, rather than leaving it to the innocent consumer to get scammed or hacked.

- Matt Bentley, computer expert at Bentley Home PC Support.
Email info@homepcsupport.co.nz or phone 0211348576.

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