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Staying safe with online payments

We are much more likely to fall victim to online payment fraud than having our pocket picked, having our cards cloned at an ATM or being caught in a phishing scam.

Online payment fraud represents 50% of the total card payment fraud in the UK and it is growing rapidly.

To avoid falling victim to online card fraud here are some simple suggestions that will reduce the risk. Although it should be noted that you can never be 100% safe as there are known cases where cards that have not been used to shop online by the legitimate cardholder have been used for online fraud. In these cases it is likely that ATM skimming has been the source of the data.

The first golden rule is to minimise the number of websites where you enter your 16 digit card number and CVV security number. This can be done by:

  1. Only shopping at online merchants that you know and trust. Use online stores which you have used before or that your friends / family have used before.

  2. Doing your homework, researching the online reputations of the store before you buy from a new online retailer. Just like high street stores, online merchants depend on visual appeal and reputation, but with online merchants it is much easier to put up a fake storefront which looks good.

  3. Buying from online stores that have a high street presence. If things go wrong you can always visit the high street store.

  4. Wherever possible using an online wallet, such as PayPal or Google Wallet. The online wallet protects your credit card details from the online retailer. You enter your 16 digit card number and CVV into the online wallet once, and then it makes payments to many different online retails without revealing your credit card details.

  5. Using one card for all of your online purchases. If possible use a single debit card for all your online purchases. Keep money available on this card as low as possible and top up the card from one of your other accounts just before you make a purchase. In this way if your card details are compromised by fraudsters they get only what is in the account at the time which is hopefully zero.

  6. Using a pre-paid credit card or scratch card to limit the amount of money available. A pre-paid credit card is normally kept empty, but loaded with sufficient money just before use. This means that there’s only a small window of opportunity for a fraudster to get at the money, and if the pre-paid card is compromised, only the sum of money on the card is lost. A scratch card is a similar idea, with the card being bought in values of £5, £10 or up to £100 and then used online.

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This article is from the free online course:

Cyber Security: Safety at Home, Online, in Life

Newcastle University

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