While computers and mobile devices have made online shopping more convenient, the prevalence of data breaches has taught us that “cybersecurity” can be a relative term.
That’s why you should do your best to protect your data while shopping online. Step One of that process is to make sure you never save your credit card information on a website.
In this article, I’ll explain why that’s a bad idea and fill you in on how money expert Clark Howard makes secure online payments.
Why You Should Think Twice Before You Store Your Payment Information Online
For the most part, reputable e-commerce sites have safeguards in place to ensure that your payment information is protected, but you shouldn’t rely on that.
So instead of storing your credit card information with retailers, you should take the time to type in your credit card number each time you make a purchase online. Here are just a few bad things that could happen if you take a shortcut and store your credit card information on a vendor’s website.
The Website Could Get Hacked
The website that has your credit card number could experience a data breach or get hacked. As is often the case, these companies inform their customers months after the initial incident and only when they’re sure it’s over.
Your Device Could Be Lost or Stolen
Another thing to worry about is how vulnerable your personal information is if your laptop computer or phone is lost or stolen. All the perpetrator has to do is find a way to get inside your device, and your personal information linked to your bank account could be there for the taking.
Online Security May Vary Depending on the Site
Even if you assume that the largest retail websites have adequate security (and I’m not saying you should make that assumption), it’s safe to say that smaller websites may not have the same safeguards.
You still want to support small businesses. But to stay safe, take the time to read up on the security (and refund policy) that a small e-commerce site has in place before you make a purchase.
Here’s How Clark Makes Secure Online Payments
Clark has become a firm believer in having a digital wallet, which is a way to make safe credit card purchases from your phone, tablet or watch.
“It’s more secure typically than using a traditional credit card,” Clark says, “Because they issue what I call a ‘junk number’ to you, a disposable number that’s not your regular credit card number, so even if a criminal somehow intercepted your payment, they got nothing. They can’t use that information to steal as if they were you.”
Google Pay Send (formerly Google Wallet) and Apple Pay also let you set up two-factor authentication for added security. Of course, you still have to employ common sense and basic security methods, but Clark says having a digital wallet is safe and convenient.
“Although no system is fool-proof, a digital wallet — the way it is established from the ground up — tends to be more secure than the traditional payment platform,” Clark adds.
No matter what a company says about the protections it has in place, you should always consider your online information to be at risk. That’s just the state of cybersecurity these days.
The onus is on you as a consumer to protect yourself when shopping online. These security tips should help:
- Do Your Homework: If you’re buying from a boutique website, see if you can find out what type of security it uses. Look for verification badges and other things to make sure it’s not a fake website.
- Use a Secure Wi-Fi Connection: Even if you do manually enter your credit card information on a website, make sure you’re on a secure Wi-Fi connection. If you’re using public Wi-Fi, the risk of a hack is greater because there’s only so much security on open networks. Clark uses Wi-Fi in only two places.
- Try a Digital Wallet: This payment method makes it tougher for hackers to access your information. See more on why Clark went digital.
If a crook does happen to steal your information, there are consumer protections for credit card users that aren’t available for those who pay with debit cards, Here’s why you should never use a debit card.