How to avoid getting your credit card details stolen online (some practical ways)

Let’s immediately jump through the points, then some back-story.

  • Only submit credit card details to make a purchase on shops which are super famous, such as Amazon, eBay, official product merchants
  • Use 3rd party paying capabilities where possible, such as PayPal. With this method, the merchant never has access to your credit card details, only to the authorized funds.
  • Ideally use a debit card rather than a credit card online. In case your card gets stolen, the thief can only use the available funds, without ending up in debt.
  • Also, only transfer the money your’re going to use when making the purchase. The card should empty in general.
  • Use applications such as Revolut which have capabilities to enable / disable online transactions on demand.
  • Revolut also allows for disposable credit cards – the number changes every time you make a transaction. This means that even if your credit card is stolen, the card is now dead and worthless. You’ll need to pay a monthly fee, though.
  • Avoid saving credit card details on your browser. Although usually CVV is usually not saved, writing it down again won’t take long. This avoids the possibility of a virus sniffing down your credit card details if they are saved.

Why am I writing these? I’ve just stumbled on a Cyber Security Episode done by MITA / Maltese Police (great initiative, by the way). Although the content made sense, I felt that some practical points were missing (original video here). The premise of the video is to only buy from sites using HTTPS as it’s secure and you’ll know the seller. Some points on the premise:

  • Running HTTPS ONLY GUARANTEES that the transmission between you and the merchant is secure. It does NOT mean you truly know who’s responsible as a merchant. There are ways to “try” and fix this (through EV certificates) but EVs are probably dead as well.
  • What happens after your credit cards are securely transported is unknown. The following may occur:
    1. Merchant might be an outright scammer running a merchant site with an SSL certificate (which nowadays, can be obtained for free, https://letsencrypt.org/)
    2. Merchant might store your credit card details insecurely; he may end up getting hacked and credit card details will get stolen.

 

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