The risks of swiping

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 October, 2011, 12:00am


For your 16th birthday, your parents decide to give you the ultimate gift. It's thin, plastic and fits in the palm of your hand. They've bestowed upon you the ability to swipe, a sign that they've accepted your passage into adulthood. That's right: you've gained their trust, and in return, you've been handed your very own credit card with your name embossed across the front.

Before you can even thank them, your mind is already flooded with a long wish list. In this day and age, brick-and-mortar stores are great, but online shopping is the quickest and most convenient way to make a purchase, all in the comfort of your own home. But that convenience and lack of face-to-face interaction has its own risks.

Even before you make a purchase, it's essential to keep your card in a safe place. It's not difficult for thieves to copy your card number, expiry date and security code (the three-digit number on the back). In most cases, those numbers, along with the card bearer's name, are enough to make a purchase.

It's not fair to say that all online shopping is dangerous. There are plenty of reputable sites that offer a platform for safe purchases. But you should keep in mind that for every legitimate outlet, there are a handful that run less-than-respectable businesses. Online purchases should always be conducted with special discretion.

Once you've made a purchase, always remember to retain the receipt. When you receive the monthly statement, cross-check the receipt and statement to make sure the amounts match. If something stands out, deal with it immediately. Contact the retailer and/or credit card company to try to resolve the problem. Report any suspicious transactions.

Take care to dispose of monthly statements after you've finished verifying them. Tear them into pieces or run them through a shredder.

Also, check the website's security and privacy statements. Most reputable sites will have a statement that confirms their level of security for online purchases. Beware of phishing scams where links, sent via e-mail or otherwise, ask you to make purchases at phoney websites.

After an online transaction, remember to log off the site (if applicable) and close your browser.

Tips to protect your credit card

1 Keep your credit card in a safe place.

2 Retain all receipts upon purchase.

3 Print and retain online receipts.

4 After web purchases, log off the site and close the browser.

5 Cross-check receipts with monthly credit-card statements.

6 Contact retailer and/or card issuer if transactions do no match.

7 Report any suspicious transactions.


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