Shopping online? Make it safe

Over the past 10 years the popularity of internet shopping has rocketed, and it’s not hard to see why. You don’t have to worry about getting into town, with all the hassle of parking, public transport or taxis, you don’t have to wait in queues to pay for your things, and you don’t have to heave heavy shopping all the way home. Instead, you just sit in front of your computer, choose what you want, enter your card details, then sit back and wait while somebody else does the rest.

But amidst all the convenience of this latest incarnation of retail therapy, there still lies the risk of fraud. When you’re in a shop using a credit card you enter your PIN number to make the purchase. This is a very effective measure against fraud. However when you’re not in a shop, for example shopping on-line, by phone or by mail order PIN numbers aren’t needed. The introduction of PIN numbers has had a huge impact in reducing credit card fraud on the high street, reducing it by 67% in the last three years according to industry banking body APACS. So fraudsters have turned their attention to these ‘Cardholder not present’ transactions instead. Criminals steal card details from discarded receipts or by copying them down when unsuspecting shoppers aren’t looking (known as skimming) and use them to try to make purchases online, by phone or mail order.

But card issuers and banks have responded. There are simple steps you can take when using a credit card to do your online shopping, to make it a safer way to pay and to protect yourself against fraud. Reputable credit card issuers are now members of global schemes like Verified By Visa or the Mastercard SecureCode which make internet shopping with credit cards safer. These schemes ensure that only you as the card holder can make transactions on-line with participating merchants.

As one of the biggest lenders in the UK, Halifax provides a range of credit cards, covered by these schemes when you register free for Halifax Secure. This service means that participating companies or retailers will ask you to confirm your purchase by entering your unique password on a secure and completely confidential pop-up screen. It’s important that you pre-register a password for your credit card, or follow the prompt to register while shopping online in order to complete an online purchase. These schemes give you the greatest possible peace of mind when you’re using credit cards online, so if you’re a keen internet shopper visit Halifax to find out more about Halifax Secure and the credit cards currently offered.

There are plenty of other useful tips around to help you counter the problem of online fraud. Here are four basic rules for shopping over the internet:
•    keep your computer protected with the latest anti-virus and firewall software
•    always look for the padlock sign on the window you’re using when making a purchase
•    register your card with a scheme such as Halifax Secure
•    always log out when you’ve finished
To find out more, visit be card smart online – an industry-wide campaign to promote safer use of credit cards and debit cards online

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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