Credit card fraud is on the rise in the U.S. as more people shop online, but there are easy ways to limit your exposure so shop safely online.
Online shopping is no longer the novelty it was when the internet first came onto the scene three decades ago. Around 70% of Americans have browsed products, compared prices or bought merchandise online at least once.
But all that money flowing through the internet has attracted attention from scammers and cyber-criminals. According to some estimates, the U.S. is responsible for around a third of global payment card fraud losses, making it the most fraud-prone country in the world.
1. Look for the lock icon to Shop safely online
When you’re on a secure website, you’ll see a lock icon directly to the left of the URL. The URL itself will also begin with “https” instead of “http” on unsecured websites. This means the website has been secured with a digital certificate that makes sure your information can’t be intercepted by a third party. These endorsements are given by Certificate Authorities, and web browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla maintain lists of Certificate Authorities they deem trustworthy.
You should never shop from a website that doesn’t have the lock icon, but the presence of a lock icon alone doesn’t mean you can ignore all other security measures.
2. Use a password manager
On sites like Amazon that you shop on regularly, it’s essential that you use a strong and unique password to protect your information. But having a strong and unique password for every website you use is a lot to ask your brain to remember. That’s where password managers come in.
On browsers like Chrome and Safari — and most smartphones — password managers come pre-installed, and often suggest strong passwords for you when you first create an account with a website. That way, you’ll only have to remember one password.
If you want more security-related bells and whistles, you can also pay for a premium version of a password manager. These usually cost around $10 a year, and get you things like encrypted storage, the ability to share logins with other people and multifactor authentication.
3. Check out as a guest
Most online websites will try to nudge you towards making an account when you buy something, but it’s usually not necessary — especially if you don’t plan on shopping there regularly. If there’s an option to check out as a “guest,” you should probably use it. Using guest checkout means that your personal data like your name, credit card number and address won’t be stored on the website in the event of a hack.
4. Monitor your transactions regularly
You can do everything right and still have your information stolen. That’s why it’s so important to be vigilant about charges on your bank account and credit cards: The sooner you can identify fraudulent activity, the sooner you can stop it.
Some scammers aren’t just looking to make purchases on your dime — they actually want to use your information to open accounts in your name. In addition to checking your transactions for suspicious activity, it’s also a good idea to regularly monitor your credit report through a credit bureau or online service.
5. Enable two-factor authentication
Data breaches are inevitable, and at some point, one of your passwords will probably be compromised. But that doesn’t have to mean a green light for scammers to steal your information.
By enabling multi-factor authentication, a user is required to provide a second form of identity other than a password when they’re logging in on a new device. This typically comes in the form of a text or email with a login code. Larger companies like Amazon and PayPal use this by default, but if it’s an option on other e-commerce sites you use, we recommend taking advantage of it.
6. Opt for a credit card over debit to shop safely online
There are a few reasons to use a credit card instead of a debit card when you’re online shopping shop safely online. Most credit card companies provide their customers “zero-fraud liability,” which means you won’t have to pay for purchases you didn’t make as long as it’s reported in a timely manner.
Federal protections are also stronger for purchases made on credit. You’re only liable for a maximum of $50 of unauthorized purchases, and you’re not liable for any purchases made after you report your card lost or stolen. With debit cards, on the other hand, you could be on the hook for “all the money taken from your ATM/debit card account, and possibly more” if you don’t catch the fraudulent activity within 60 days.
7. Turn on alerts
Most banks and credit card companies let you set up alerts any time a purchase is made on your account. If you want to be absolutely sure that no unauthorized charges have been made in your name, this is the best way to do it. You can usually limit this to transactions made online, by phone or by the mail, so you won’t have to deal with a notification every time you use your card in person this is one of the another ways to shop safely online.
8. Use anti-malware software
You can protect yourself even further by using a quality anti-malware or antivirus program. It’s a good idea to use this wherever you online shop to shop safely online , whether it’s from your PC or phone. Fortunately, most products offer cross-platform protection, and many of them also include things like VPN access and password management, so you can control all your security settings in one place.