What prevents online shops from stealing credit card information?
Modern technology has improved security of online credit card transactions, making shopping online safer than ever. Read on to find out how this works.
By Donna Reynolds
Online shopping is fast, convenient, and offers a selection of merchandise that cannot be equaled by brick and mortar stores. Advances in technology continue bring the Internet to an ever-increasing number of people, and with that, the abundance of shopping opportunity grows even larger. Despite all of this, however, the majority of Internet users – an estimated 78 percent – have never shopped online.
One reason that people usually cite for not buying merchandise or services online is their fear that the transaction will not be secure, and somehow their credit card information will be stolen. Certainly, recent reports about the increasing problem of identity theft doesn’t help allay these fears. However, shopping online is actually be less risky than using a credit card in a store or phoning an order into a mail order outlet.
Most reputable Internet retailers utilize a security system that is known as data encryption to handle credit card transactions. Simply put, encryption takes the information that is entered from your card and scrambles it so that it is no longer identifiable. This coded information is then transmitted directly to the financial institution responsible for paying the vendor. On receipt, the code is decrypted or unscrambled, using what is referred to as a key.
During a secured credit card transaction, no human ever sees the credit card information; thus it is virtually impossible for anyone to get your card number or other identifying data. Consider that when you phone in an order or send in an order form to a mail order catalog, a person must take that information and enter it into a computer. Certainly, the risk of credit card theft is much greater when an individual has direct access to your card number, expiration date and even the security code on the back. Internet transactions are even safer than shopping in a store where the clerk handles your card, even though it may only be for an instant.
There are means by which to ensure that an online retailer is using a secured system to process your order, and it is important to be able to differentiate a secure connection from one that is not protected. Normally, when shopping online, you will select items for purchase and put them in a “shopping cart.” This is actually a separate screen that lists all the items that you have selected, the quantity and price. Once you have finished shopping, the next step is to check out. A button will normally be displayed that you must click to get to the checkout page.
At the checkout page, review your list and make sure the quantities and prices are correct. Then click the button indicating that you want to continue the transaction. Sites vary, but usually, the next window that you will see will ask for credit card information. At this point, you should check to make sure that the site is secure. There should be two indications on the screen that the site it is secure. Look at the site address in your browser window. The prefix should have changed from http: to https: – the addition of the “s” indicates that this is a secured site. You will also see a small lock symbol on your task bar. The exact location of this symbol will vary depending on the type of operating system and browser you are using, and how you have your task bar set up. If both of these are present, you can rest assured that the site is secure and your credit card information will be protected.
Old habits and ideas are hard to break. Certainly, in the early days of online shopping, there were instances of fraud. But today, with advanced security measures in place, there is no reason to be concerned. Online shopping opens up the entire world for your browsing pleasure, and no matter what you are looking for, chances are you will find it somewhere on the web. Don’t let unwarranted fear stop you from this great experience.
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