Alwyn Van Niekerk
Alwyn Van Niekerk

Spending online, safely

Personally I think online shopping is one of the more valuable additions the internet has made to my life. I don’t always like shopping malls, and I absolutely hate not finding a specific product I’m looking for, never mind finally tracking down that product only to arrive at a store with depleted stock levels.

Thankfully many retailers have taken to the internet to try to get a share of the success of sites like Amazon.com and in the process brought armchair-shopping nirvana to us, the masses.

Security is always a concern when buying online. Luckily most internet browsers, such as Firefox and Internet Explorer, have made big strides to make clients more aware of our security or suspicious activity for online transactions. We’ve all seen that little lock appearing in a browser that allows you to view the details of the security certificate for the site to which you’re about to give money.

Unfortunately people don’t always pay attention to that little lock, or — far more problematic — the lack thereof before they enter their credit-card details. Thankfully certain laws prevent online shopping sites to store credit-card details, but enforcing this is always going to be problematic and, quite frankly, you never know when a disgruntled employee will dump the entire credit-card database and sell it on the internet.

So how can you prevent your credit-card details from falling in the wrong hands? Over and above the obvious ways, you actually can’t. You’ll never be able to control all those external factors, but you can control what they get access to.

Most of us already have multiple credit cards, and if you don’t, then choose the flavour of the day and get yourself a credit card from your friendly bank. They’ll gladly give you one. Firstly set the credit limit to zero on this card. I know it feels great when the bank hands you a card with R20 000 credit on it, but you don’t want to be liable for that when some wannabe hacker gets his hands on it. Secondly, only transfer enough money to that account to pay for the purchases you are about to make, no more.

And there you go, easy as that. By following this straightforward approach and always using that one specific card for all your online spending, you’ll have a bit more peace of mind regarding the security of your online spending habits, rather than being forced into an online retail hiatus because of the ridiculous amounts of online credit-card fraud.