Is It Safe to Use Credit Cards Over the Internet?


Consumers make purchases over the Internet because it cuts time and wasted trips. When a consumer wants a specific good or product, it may not be available in the store or even in the state where the consumer lives. Going online allows the consumer the opportunity to purchase the product from another state or country. The site may or may not be safe and secure, which all consumers should verify before making a credit card purchase over the Internet.

Encryption Protection

If an Internet site states that the site is encrypted, this means the data and personal information are protected and secure. Companies and Internet sites that want to ensure customers' security when making purchases have high-quality encryption software that protects the data. The software keeps the information that is entered on the site safe from unauthorized viewing, preventing hackers from obtaining credit card information transmitted from the customer.

Safety Verifications

Before making a purchase or using a credit card over the Internet, the credit card holder should verify the safety of the transaction. Internet browsers such as Windows Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator display an icon at the bottom of the computer screen that alerts cardholders to the safety of a purchase. The icon is the image of a lock, which should be in the locked position when you are using a credit card to make an Internet purchase. An open lock is not secure. The open lock typically will appear when you are browsing the Internet, not when you are providing personal credit card information. Also, the letters http will be displayed in the address bar when the site is not safe or secure. Https will display when the site is secure.

Public Computers

It is not secure to save credit card information on the Internet if the computer that is used is a public computer open to other users. If a person were to use the public computer after the credit card holder, the credit card information that was entered may be accessible by the new user, who could use it to make purchases. Also, when information is saved to a computer, often a password is all that is required to log in and use the credit card. Some people are very resourceful and can figure out passwords.

Online vs. Store

Using a credit card online may be more secure than using a credit card for store purchases. For instance, once a credit card is used to make an Internet purchase, the credit card number will not be transmitted again unless the customer makes another purchase. If a credit card is used in a store or restaurant, the clerk, cashier, waiter or waitress have access to the number and expiration date of the credit card after the customer has left the business establishment.

Tracking Fraud

If a credit card number and information are stolen from the Internet, the cardholder is responsible for only a certain amount of the debt -- generally $50. When a stolen card number has been used to make an online purchase, the business can have fraud investigators find the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the computer used. This allows the credit card company to track the purchases and find where the fraud occurred.

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