The world has embraced technology in various spheres of life. The online purchase of services, goods, and solutions has revolutionized trade, opening thousands of opportunities to entrepreneurs worldwide. Today, any transaction or operation can be done online.
With a click of a button, the virtual space becomes a common ground where any person, any product or service, and any place can be reached almost instantly. This significant step into the future has strengthened the ever-increasing dependence on technology and the internet, and this comes with its risks.
As eCommerce continues to grow, so does the number of cases of online theft and fraud.
Online Payment Risks
According to a Statista report, 22.11 billion debit, prepaid, and credit cards were in circulation worldwide as of December 2018. This figure is predicted to move to 29.31 billion by 2027. Digital wallets are also in the mix, with Jupiter Research anticipating them to be used by half the world’s population by 2024. These, coupled with the fact that online purchase is convenient and involves card-not-present transactions, bring us to a wide, intertwined network of possible security gaps that cybercriminals are likely to exploit.
Whether you are a merchant or a customer, knowing what risks you are likely to face is the first step in protecting yourself. Let’s look at some of the possible online payment risks.
With so many customers making online payments, and therefore, storing card details online, fraudsters have an easier time doing their thing.
Fraudsters highly target online payments since they don’t even need a real card to do it. All that they need is the card details which can easily be bought from the dark web. It’s also much easier to go undiscovered.
This happens primarily through emails and social media networks where one receives an email or message claiming to be from someone in high authority, such as a manager from a workplace or bank representative.
The user is lured into providing their login credentials and personal information that could put their account at risk.
Sophisticated Malware Attacks
From learning passwords to tracking keystrokes to creeping into laptop microphones and cameras, Malware has indeed become sophisticated. Today, cybercriminals can install bots into your system without your knowledge. This means that bad actors can actually know your passwords, who you are, and what you do. They can attack you anytime!
Businesses worldwide have come to understand that customer loyalty is vital to growing and maintaining market share. They have, therefore, developed loyalty programs to help establish a long-lasting and profitable relationship with customers. With an estimated $140 billion loyalty points in the United States alone, loyalty program fraud is becoming a very lucrative business for scammers.
Also known as reward points fraud, loyalty program fraud refers to when a criminal exploits or abuses a company’s reward program for their own selfish gains. Often, the criminal will use identity theft to commit payment fraud with these reward points.
Ways to Stay Secure Online Payments
Online buying risks affect both sellers and buyers.
Everyone involved must do their part to ensure security while buying or selling online.
Here are tips on how to stay safe from online payment scams and other risks.
Use Strong Passwords
Having strong passwords will make it harder for cybercriminals to gain access to your accounts. But, if by bad luck you get hacked, having different and unique passwords for each of your accounts will ensure that the other accounts remain safe.
Ensure your password has a mixture of capital and small letters, numbers, and special characters to make it harder to guess, and avoid using personal details like place of birth and family names.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
Activating two-factor authentication is critical, especially when it comes to your social media accounts. This is because if someone gets access to one of your accounts, they will access all the financial payments attached to them.
Two-factor authentication will help secure all your logins, as you’ll be notified whenever your account is being accessed from a different device from your usual one.
Apart from using text codes and email as your second authentication, there are also authentication apps like Google Authenticator or Authy that you can use to get codes as long as you’ve enabled 2-step authentication on the online accounts you are trying to protect. And, while the two are considered dedicated apps, it’s important to be careful when downloading third-party apps. Read the reviews before the download to ensure they are not infected with Malware.
One more thing you can do to ensure you spot suspicious activity instantaneously is to sign up for transaction notifications offered for free by credit card companies and banks. That way, you’ll be able to stop/report a fraudulent transaction in time.
Shop From Secure Websites
No website is indeed 100% safe, but some are safer than others. Before buying from a particular website, the first thing to do is to confirm that it has a padlock symbol before the URL thread on the web page.
Also, confirm that the site has “HTTPS” at the beginning of a URL thread and not just “HTTP.” The added “S” shows that the website is encrypted, meaning online hackers cannot eavesdrop on the communication between the user and the site’s server.
Use a VPN When Shopping Online
If you want to ultimately ensure that your personal data, including bank passwords, don’t end up in the wrong hands, then you should always use a VPN whenever you shop online or every time you use an unsecured network. A VPN encrypts all the traffic transferred to and from your device, making it impossible for anyone to trace your online activity.
A VPN also masks your IP address and gives you a new one from the country of your preference. This way, no one can track your online activity back to you, making your online transactions secure. Just make sure you choose a reliable VPN and not free ones that might infect your device with Malware.
Avoid Using Public WI-FI
A 2018 study revealed that 81% of people still use public Wi-Fi despite all the security risks that come with it. Public Wi-Fi hotspots available in cafes or at airports have cybercriminals lurking on them, waiting to steal your credit card information and personal details.
So, it’s advisable to avoid using public Wi-Fi at all costs; but if you ever find yourself in a fix and have to use it, it’s good to use a VPN.
Update Your Computer Software
The first thing you are supposed to do before shopping online is to ensure your device is up to date. Continually updating your computer software closes the security vulnerabilities that cybercriminals use to enter into your device.
Today’s computers and mobile devices will alert you whenever a software update is due. But, if you are not sure as to when you last ran an update, then go to the device settings to see if you need one.
Use Credit Cards or PayPal When Shopping Online
Ideally, you are advised to use secure payment methods like PayPal when shopping online. Paypal, as well as credit cards, will offer you buyer protection if a payment dispute ever arises. Also, credit cards’ spending limits prevent them from being misused like a debit card would.
Debit cards are also connected to your bank account; therefore, if someone was to get ahold of them, they could easily steal all your money.
It is much easier to dispute a fraudulent transaction on a credit card than to recover the money stolen from a debit card.
Today, there are one-time credit cards created specifically for online shopping! So, make use of them.
Choose a Trusted E-Commerce Shop and Processor
As an online shopper, it can be overwhelming thinking about all the security measures you are supposed to take to remain safe. That’s why you need to find a reputable e-commerce site and payment processor. This will give you peace of mind knowing that a reliable third party is working hard to provide extra security.
Thoroughly research the most trusted e-commerce sites and payment processors while paying attention to the kind of industries they work with. Some of the most popular and trusted e-commerce platforms include Magneto, Woocommerce, Squarespace, BigCommerce, Wix, Volusion, and Shopify, among others.
Use Advanced Anti-malware Software
A reliable anti-malware will protect both known and unknown threats on your computer and any other digital device you might be using. Always ensure your anti-malware software is up-to-date and the auto-update option is turned on. But, before you include it in the automatic updates list, the anti-malware/antivirus program should be able to detect both mutated and newly created Malware.
If you receive an email, chat request, or instant message that looks suspicious, close your browser, and shut down your device for some time. When you finally restart your computer, ensure you run full spyware and virus scan before accessing the internet.
Even as you enjoy shopping online, it’s always good to know that there are risks. Use the above tactics to remain safe and always employ your best judgment.
Brad Smith is a technology expert at TurnOnVPN, a non-profit promoting safe and free internet for all. He writes about his dream for free internet and unravels the horror behind big techs.