Many of us use the internet more and more for online purchases. It may be a flight or hotel booking, or just an item that you cannot find locally. Maybe it’s too expensive in the shops and it’s just about a done deal when searching for it online that it will be cheaper.
May be that we are considering online banking services? Many of the online stores accept all major credit cards as payment. Some local online stores will even accept your debit card as payment. Some overseas companies will consider PayPal as the only method of payment. And this is where the trouble might start.
How secure are your bank details on the internet really? With all the fake banking e-mails we receive on a regular basis and card-skimming going on all over the place, how safe is your money?
Statistics reveal that card transactions on the internet is safer than when used in regular shops or at the ATM. But there are still pitfalls that we need to be aware of.
When using any internet service where a subscription is required (i.e. PayPal) ensure that your login credentials are safe. Make sure that your password / code is at least eight characters long and it should contain not only alphanumeric characters, but also special characters / symbols (i.e. ~,_,-,*, etc). Don’t use the same password for other services. Important : Change these passwords on a regular basis!
Just as with e-mail scams from banks, the same applies to other online financial services. PayPal can be used as a prime example. Thousands of people out there use PayPal on a regular basis but users still get caught out with fake e-mails prompting the user for his / her account details. PayPal pose a particular risk in that your bank account / card details are linked to your account. The safe side of this service is that you have to put money into it first to be able to use it. So make sure that you only transfer the correct amount of money into this account when you need it.
We’ve dealt with passwords, what else can you do to stay safe?
- Use original software – pirate copies of Microsoft Windows has already been compromised. It’s been hacked enabling you to use it without paying for it. If the built-in security has been compromised, how safe is the rest of your information? Watch for future article on piracy.
- Use the latest browser – Internet Explorer 8 is the latest for Windows XP. Any higher revisions will require Vista, 7 or Windows 8. At time of this article Firefox 18 is in beta so version 17 will be the one. Google Chrome is currently on 23 with version 24 in beta.
- Ensure your anti-virus is updated – a decent anti-virus / internet security product is essential. Kaspersky has a special security mode whenever financial transactions come into play. Surely the others will follow soon. It is of utmost importance to have a proper security suite installed, activated and updated on your system. Do not rely on one of the many free anti-virus products – they’re free for a reason.
- Watch what you’re doing – if you frequent some risque websites (torrent and hacker sites to name two) clear out your system cache before transacting. There are various free tools available to do this. One example is CCleaner which does a fairly decent job and has a good reputation.
Now you’re ready to transact. Remember though that what you save by buying online might not be such a big saving once postage and insurance come into play. Then there’s the question of warranty (in the case of electronic equipment) which will add to the costs if you have to return the item.
At Matrix Warehouse West Coast we get the same issues on a regular basis – the customer purchase an item in Cape Town (they were there in any case and it was R 50.00 cheaper) and within four months they need to return it under warranty. With fuel costs as it is, you can see the problem? Or an item was purchased online but found to be faulty once it arrives here, what now? In most cases you have to return the item at your cost.
And of course, it always looks different in real life compared to the picture.