What can you do to protect your card details online?

10 03 2013

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Image from Flickr Creative Commons via Images_of_money

The use of various forms of payment card to buy goods and services in today’s online world has become so widespread that the highest echelons of public bodies have seen fit to introduce guidelines to help ensure that people and organisations can do so safely.

For example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – a top-level forum used by national governments to promote policies designed to “improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world” – has looked in great detail into the increasing use of credit and other payment cards, with the aim of unifying laws designed to protect users when they pay for items bought online.

As the OECD points out itself, “under the laws of some OECD countries, you have no liability if your card is used online without your permission”. However, this exemption does not apply all countries, and this very inconsistency is one reason why it is best for the individual card user to take their own precautions.

Generally, online payments are protected by the fact that a website will use encryption technology when they handle such payments. Sites which do this are often denoted by a closed padlock in the area of the screen which also includes the URL, or webpage address. Encryption means that the card details transmitted between the buyer and the seller are concealed by a form of code which is designed to render the important information on the card – its individual number and the number of the bank account with which it is connected – unreadable by any outside source.

This form of protection is still considered adequate by a surprisingly high proportion of companies which accept credit cards online. But recent years have seen the emergence of a further level of security, which has been adopted by a number of payment card issuers. This entails the buyer negotiating a couple of extra levels of authentication besides that simply used when they make a payment simply by entering the card number.

The Verified by Visa system is the most widely used of such protection measures. Now used by more than 300,000 websites across Europe, it entails the user setting up a separate user name and password to that associated with the specific payment card they intend to use. Naturally, it can only be used in conjunction with cards issued by the Visa payment card company.

When they input the details of a card which is registered under the scheme, the user of this system will see a personalised greeting, so that they can be sure that the screen they are being shown is genuine. Then they will have to enter their Verified by Visa password in order to prove that they are the rightful holder of the card being used.

Such secure payment gateways are intended to provide two-way security – that the card user can be sure of the legitimacy of the retailer they are buying from, and that the retailer has an emphasis on protecting the data of its customers. In these times when making a card payment online can so easily be taken for granted, such measures designed to protect the card holder and their personal information should be taken advantage of by every cardholder.

 

SOURCES:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/webwise/guides/safe-shopping-with-cards

www.oecd.org/sti/consumerpolicy/1936378.doc

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