As the news broke that a hack of the PlayStation Network may have exposed the credit card details of up to 77 million people, F-Secure’s Mikko Hypponen reminded us that the problem of online credit card theft was solved a decade ago. He linked his Twitter followers to an article called “Home Office: Wily Tricks to Thwart E-Thieves” from November 20, 2001. It’s worth a look, even if a few of the links are broken.
The advice offered in 2001 still applies. Here’s a quick review of the key things you know to protect your credit card accounts online.
1. Follow your bills closely.
Credit cards are, in general, better for online purchases than alternatives. Try to limit your purchases to one card and check that one account’s bills closely. Report any questionable purchase(s) to your card holder immediately. If you live in the United States and believe you have been a victim of identity theft, you should contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for help. Otherwise contact local law enforcement.
2. Only shop on secure sites.
Even if your PC is completely patched and protected, you still need to use caution when shopping online. Stick to online retailers you trust or have researched. Make sure that when it’s time to submit your credit card details, you’re on a secured site with a URL that begins with https. If you’re ever in doubt, stop the transaction and contact the retailer by phone.
3. For worry-free shopping, use one-time credit card numbers for online purchases.
The best way to avoid online credit card fraud is with temporary card numbers. Bank of America, Citibank and Discover all offer some version of a temporary credit cards for their customers. If you had used one of these numbers to pay for your PlayStation Network account, for instance, you wouldn’t be worrying about anyone going on a spending spree in your name.
Are you comfortable using your credit card online? What else do you do to prevent credit card theft?
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