When you purchase a product or service with your credit card, its details are transmitted to the retailer or a payment processing service. The recipient contacts your credit card company and uses this data to charge your account. However, this isn’t always the end of the story; your details may be added to a database.
Many retailers use third-party payment services, so they never handle your credit card information, others only keep it briefly. However, some companies store information in their databases for months or years. This increases credit card security risks by giving rogue employees and hackers more opportunities to steal the data.
Criminals seek to obtain credit card details because they can use the data to apply fraudulent charges or make purchases online. They acquire card numbers by intercepting transactions, hacking databases or deceiving cardholders into supplying the information. Unlike check payments, credit card purchases usually do not require photo identification.
Fortunately, retailers and payment services take a number of measures to prevent credit card fraud and data theft. To keep Internet hackers out, many companies encrypt their databases and maintain network firewalls. E-Complish uses 128-bit encryption when transmitting data. It validates cardholder addresses and verification codes as well.
Customers can also take various steps to promote credit card security:
- Don’t make online purchases outside of your home.
- Scan your computer for spyware and viruses weekly.
- Shred receipts and documents before you dispose of them.
- Check your wallet or pocketbook before leaving a store.
- Never send your credit card information by email.
- Sign the back of your card before using it.
Avoid subscribing to services that automatically charge your credit card every week, month or year. Such arrangements give companies an excuse to retain your data for an indefinite period of time.
The Federal Trade Commission warns that you should not sign a receipt with a blank area between the last item and the total. Use a pen to make a diagonal line across the blank part of the receipt.
As businesses, customers, card issuers and payment services continue to take new measures against credit card fraud, it will become safer for everyone to buy and sell products on credit.