Shopping and making payments through online banking have become increasingly common in recent years. However, despite the many benefits of virtually paying for products and services, there are various risks that are associated with it too. Many people have fallen victim to scams or have had their personal information hacked after making online payments.
Luckily, there are security measures that you can use as a guide and abide by to make sure that your personal details and money are safe when you are online.
9 security tips for online payments
Below are nine ways that you can help to ensure that your payments and personal details are secure when you make online purchases.
Create strong passwords
One of the best ways to deter criminals is to have multiple strong passwords protecting your personal data. It’s advisable to use different passwords for each of your accounts so that criminals don’t have access to them all if they guess your single password.
Passwords should contain at least eight letters, including an uppercase letter, a number, and a symbol. The password can be made stronger by adding more uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols, as this creates billions of possibilities that would take computer systems years to crack.
It’s not safe to use basic combinations such as ‘1234’ or ‘password’ as they are easy to guess and amongst the most popular passwords in the world. Passwords that contain obvious personal information, such as dates of birth and pet names, are also easy to guess and should be avoided.
Set up personal authentication
It adds an extra level of security if your banking app requires you to use your fingerprint or facial recognition before you can make a payment. This can help prevent criminals from making fraudulent purchases or stealing your money as they are unable to hack these identification payment methods.
New European standards also dictate that banks must use two-step authentication to verify their identity. Users must pass two separate tests to prove their identity before the payment can be processed. This will usually involve sending a PIN or password via a text message or email to your registered account. You may also be able to use your fingerprint or a face scan during this authentication process.
Research the seller and website
There are many different websites on the internet, but not all of them are legitimate. It’s a good idea to conduct a check on the seller and website before you input any payment or personal details to make a purchase. This could be as simple as checking the reviews on the website to see if other customers were happy. You can also Google the seller and see if any comments are made that could indicate that they are a scam.
For example, you may find that there have been negative reviews left on Trust Pilot that suggest the website is unsafe to use. You can keep your payment details safe by only using legitimate websites that are well-known and have a clear refund and return policies so that you know that you can get your money back if you aren’t happy with your purchase.
Avoid public or shared computers
Many websites save passwords every time you enter them on a webpage so that you can easily gain access in the future. However, this is dangerous if you use a public or shared computer as the next user could gain access to your accounts through the saved passwords.
It’s not a good idea to click the ‘remember me’ button that pops up when you enter a password on a webpage. This will prevent your login information from being saved and potentially accessed by users who log on to the computer after you.
It’s also important to log out of social media accounts and shopping sites so that no one can use your online accounts after you. Many sites have reminders that pop up to discourage users from remaining logged in if the computer that they are using is publically used or shared within their home.
Avoid public Wi-Fi
In a similar way to public and shared computers, it’s not a good idea to make online payments when using public Wi-Fi. Hackers can access the network and steal any personal or bank details that you send whilst your device is connected. If you must use public Wi-Fi, it’s advisable to use a VPN to add extra security.
It’s advisable to use your mobile data allowance when you are out in public to avoid connecting with an open Wi-Fi network. Public Wi-Fi isn’t secure and leaves your information vulnerable if anyone hacks the network, whereas mobile data such as 4G and 5G has more encryption and means that your identity is better protected.
Use a virtual card
A virtual card is a good alternative to traditional debit card payments when shopping online. Virtual cards are not directly linked to your bank account and so, therefore, don’t provide criminals with the opportunity to hack into your account and steal your money. The virtual card number is converted into a token ID, which cannot be traced back to the original card.
Once a hacker steals your debit card details, they could potentially steal all your money that is in your account. For this reason, it’s better to use a virtual card online as a thief cannot drain your bank account, although they may be able to make purchases until you and the provider freeze the card in case of fraudulent credit card transactions.
You should contact your credit card company immediately if you think that your card has been stolen or the details have been hacked.
Use a VPN
Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) can help protect your online activity, in addition to your device’s private IP address. This allows you to safely shop online when out in public places such as shopping centers and cafes. The VPN can be used on a mobile device or a computer.
A VPN is also a good form of protection to have when visiting a new website for the first time or when traveling in a foreign country. Your IP address could contain lots of personal information, including your credit card details and other financial information, which could get stolen if there is a credit card data breach. A VPN will alleviate this worry and provide you and your device with an extra layer of protection.
Check that the website is secure
You should only enter your card and personal details on websites that are secure. There are several things to look out for when you visit a website to check that your data is encrypted and cannot be hacked by criminals. However, it’s worth noting that a secure website does not mean that it is entirely safe and that you still need to be vigilant.
Secure websites will feature a padlock symbol in the search bar. You can click on the padlock to open the site’s certificate, which should tell you who has registered the website and how many cookies are currently in use.
A secure web address will begin with https://. The ‘s’ stands for secure and means that your data isn’t vulnerable when it is transferred from your computer to the company’s server. Some websites will also have a green address bar to show that it is secure.
Online provide necessary personal information
You should only fill in the mandatory sections when making online transactions. This includes your payment method and information so that you can pay and potentially your home address so that the product can be sent to you. You should not have to input personal information such as your mother’s maiden name, the name of your first pet, or any other information that could be used to answer your security questions when making online purchases.
Although it can be tempting to save your login and personal information on various websites to create accounts, it’s safer to check out as a guest so that your information isn’t saved.