by January 4, 2000 0 comments

Let’s skip the introduction
and go straight to the question–Is it safe to use your credit card number
online?

Credit card fraud is not
limited to the online world. It’s existed for as long as credit cards have
been around, and it’ll exist for as long as credit cards do, in their
current form. So, our question should be–Is it more dangerous to use a
credit card online?

Available evidence says it
isn’t. Or if there’s evidence to the contrary, card issuers are not yet
talking about it. After all, bankers are a secretive lot.

There’s no reason for us
not to use credit cards online, provided we take a few steps to ensure the
security of our transaction. All that’s needed online is the credit card
number and date of birth. The online vendor needs neither your signature nor
physical access to the card. Your date of birth could generally be known.
So, you need to be doubly careful to ensure that your credit card number
doesn’t fall into the hands of unscrupulous elements.

Credit card details could
potentially be stolen from you, your computer, or from vendors with whom you’ve
used the credit card. Let’s take these one by one.

Don’t let your credit card
lie around so that someone can pick up the number. Also, don’t give the
number out to anyone other than a vendor.

Don’t put your credit card
details in e-mail or generally store it in documents on your computer,
particularly if it’s a shared or an office machine.

While entering your credit
card number at an online store, ensure that you do so only on a secure page.
If you’re asking for clarifications or help from the sites, you don’t
have to give them your credit card number. If they ask for it, there’s
something fishy. Stop all transactions at the site immediately and inform
the Webmaster. Don’t enter your credit card number or date of birth as
part of the information you give while registering at any site.

Online, the third instance–of
the numbers being stolen from the vendor– could happen if someone hacks
into an e-commerce server. Frankly speaking, you have no control over this,
except hoping that the vendor takes enough care to ensure that his servers
are not open to hackers.

The law is not very clear on
your liability if someone uses your credit card fraudulently online. But
check out with the bank that issued your credit card on their policies and
guidelines for the same.

During our reviews in this
issue, we were using my Citibank credit card to make purchases online. About
half-way through, Citibank called me up to inform that these flurry of
transactions were happening on my card and wanted to ensure that they were
legitimate.

We called up Standard
Chartered’s helpline and asked about the remedies available to a credit
card holder in case of any misuse of the card online. Their answer was the
card holder can complain about the transaction, but there was no way that
the bank could stop the transaction. In fact, they went as far to state that
they discourage the use of credit cards online.

The Amex helpline, when
contacted said that in case someone else uses the card details online, then
the card holder is liable to pay up.

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