Movies like Identity Thief show credit card fraud as something done by small-scale criminals running phone scams. Unfortunately, the reality is a lot scarier: multinational organized crime using cyber-attacks to steal cards by the millions.
Recent examples include the theft of info for 40 million credit cards from Target in 2003, a further 40 million from Adobe in 2012, and a whopping 130 million cards stolen from Heartland Payment Systems in 2009.
Even worse, Russian mafia groups have recently been revealed to have obtained over a billion passwords, exposing many to potential credit card fraud. Here is how to stay safe:
- Protect your Computer
Computer security is a vital part of home security, and essential for credit card security. If a hacker accesses your computer, that hacker can not only mine the data of past transactions, but also install a keylogger to track future transactions.
A home network should ideally have an effective firewall, and each device on the network should have a full suite of security software. Apple devices have built-in security, but Windows tends to be vulnerable. Built-in suites like Windows Defender can help, but the best options are professional security software.
- Look for Security Verifications
Every credit card now has a verification process for which online merchants pay a small fee, like Verified by Visa or Mastercard SecureCode. These processes use additional information, like codes or addresses, to verify transactions before they happen. This information is not stored, making it impossible for a criminal to run through another transaction even if they had some of your data.
- Watch for Secure Connections
Information sent over some web pages is encrypted, making it difficult to decode if intercepted. All online merchants who care about their customers use encrypted store pages. You can tell if an online form is encrypted by its use of the https:// protocol in the address, or by a padlock icon in your browser.
- Don’t Save Credit Card Information
Even the biggest companies sometimes get hacked. The Heartbleed bug, for example, affected internet giants like Amazon and Indigo. Limit your vulnerability by asking forms not to store any of your credit information.
If you don’t want to type in your credit card info every time, you can instead pay using a credit card through PayPal. That way, you only have to type your username and password. Even better, PayPal login information never enters the merchant’s system, decreasing the risk of identity theft.